ESCANABA, Mich. (WJMN) – Wednesday was supposed to be an Upper Peninsula Honor Flight mission to Washington D.C. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, all honor flights are canceled for the rest of the year.
“I am getting phone calls from wives of the veterans who are on our wait list that they just passed away,” said U.P. Honor Flight President, Scott Knauf. “I just got one of those yesterday.”
With the May and now September U.P. Honor Flights being canceled, Knauf says the waiting list keeps on growing.
“As of right now, we’ve got about 400 people on the wait list,” said Knauf.
Willard “Willie” LaMarche of Escanaba is a Vietnam War Navy veteran who was supposed to go in May. When that got canceled, he was supposed to go Wednesday.
“I was depressed,” said LaMarche. “I was really looking forward to going on this flight because there is a lot of friends who went on this. A lot of them, I’ve been introduced to through the Navy and I’d just like to see them again.”
Usually there are two U.P. Honor Flights every year. In order to catch up, three missions are planned for 2021.
“We don’t know what the world is going to be like next May but as of now, I’ve got contracts in place for May 5 and May 26 and then September next year,” said Knauf.
LaMarche will be going in May.
“Anxious to make this trip because it’s going to mean so much to me,” said LaMarche. “It’s something I’ll never see again and I’m going to meet people from the Navy, Air Force, Army, all over and I’m going to get some idea of what they went through.”
There are ways you can help the U.P. Honor Fight at this time. With so many on the wait list, they are looking for people to help make throw blankets for all of the veterans. Mail is always being accepted for them and so are donations to help get all veterans on the flight free of cost.
If interested in sending mail or helping to make blankets, contact Knauf at (906) 280-2871.
The U.P. Honor Flight has been able to do 17 missions for 1,316 veterans from every U.P. county so far.
For more information on the U.P. Honor Flight or to make a donation, click here.