Honor Flight is a great experience

I was privileged recently to be chosen for a seat on the May 17 Honor Flight to Washington, D.C., to visit our National World War II Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial, Arlington National Cemetery, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the various memorials to honor those men and women who gave their lives to support this great nation of ours.

The trip starts with a flight out of Plattsburgh International Airport. Each veteran participant is required to have a guardian accompany him or her on the trip to provide wheelchair assistance where needed or required. I chose my daughter Bobbie, and we joined together for an absolutely great experience.

Our day started at the Oval Parade Grounds at 6:30 a.m. for registration, followed by a ceremonial salute to our flag. Upon completion, we boarded the bus provided by the North Country Honor Flight to travel to Plattsburgh International Airport for the departure ceremony. The trip to the airport was led by a motorcade of Vietnam combat veterans, police and supporters. At both locations, despite the early hour, the turnout of supporters was overwhelming. Following words of support from Assemblywoman Janet Duprey, Congressman Bill Owens, Jim Calnon, mayor of Plattsburgh, and others, we boarded flight No. 8075 to Baltimore, estimated arrival 11:10 a.m.

All of the services provided are free to our veterans, the guardians pay a token fee for the flight, and other services, meals, etc. are provided. While in the air, Dan Kaifetz announced that former senator Bob Dole, himself a veteran of the 10th Mountain Division, requested permission to greet us at the World War II Memorial.

On arrival at Baltimore Washington International Airport, we boarded a bus to take us to the WWII Memorial. A catered lunch was provided on the bus for the trip, and we arrived at the WWII Memorial a little after 1 p.m. to a few surprises. We were met by members of Saranac Central High School’s Freedom Club who had traveled by bus to Washington to greet the veterans and offer their thanks. My son Matthew and his family were also there to greet and thank us and to enjoy some visiting.

Being a Korean War vet, the military provided a brief escort to tour the Korean War Veterans Memorial, a very personalized view of our soldiers in field gear, a very impressive display.

While at the WWII Memorial, Elizabeth Dole, wife of former senator Bob Dole, asked if Bobbie and I would like to meet him, get a picture with him and a few words. We were most happy to and gave him thanks for his service with the 10th Mountain Division. He and his wife were there to greet the veterans all day.

We next traveled to Arlington National Cemetery, the Iwo Jima Monument, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to view the changing of the guard, and then on the bus to travel back to Baltimore. Throughout the day we were assisted by active-duty men and women from all branches of the service in getting to see all we could. Our thanks to them for their help.

Back in Baltimore, we stopped at VFW Howard County Memorial Post 8097 for dinner, provided in thanks for our veterans’ service – a great meal and, again, an outstanding show of support. From there it was on to the airport for our return flight, No. 8075. Once in the air we were in for another surprise, “mail call.” Now all GIs, regardless of branch of service, look forward to mail call and possible news from home. Was I surprised – close to a hundred letters of thanks for my service and well wishes. This is just another service provided by Honor Flight from family and friends.

Upon arrival in Plattsburgh, a half-hour early due to tailwinds, we were again surprised at the number of welcome-home family and friends. A bus was waiting to take us to the Oval, the old Air Force base and more well-wishers as we found our cars and journeyed home.

This is a day that every veteran should take part in if possible when the fall trips start. I was a little anxious about doing this at my age and am so glad I made the trip. Our Constitution and Bill of Rights guarantee us certain rights and privileges as citizens of these United States of America, and no citizen or ELECTED REPRESENTATIVES have a right to deny these rights. Take a trip to Washington, look at the white crosses above those who have made the supreme sacrifice, and tell them their efforts were not in vain. (We can, working together, assure that their sacrifices were not in vain.)

On the trip, the people in charge – and by the way, everyone is a volunteer – take care of every detail. There are medical personnel on the flight and with us all day. The flight crews spend the day with us, as did many active-duty men and women in the Washington area. A big THANK-YOU to the students from Saranac Central High School’s Freedom Club. And last but not least, thanks to Dan Kaifetz, Harry Treadway, “Mail Call” Barbara Sherman and all the volunteers who made this day possible.

Frank Karl lives in Onchiota.