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Honor flights back on this summer for local veterans

Published: Jun. 9, 2021 at 6:11 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 10, 2021 at 5:21 AM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - After a year of grounded flights, a branch of a national organization that honors veterans with all-expenses-paid trips to war memorials in Washington, D.C. is gearing up to take off again in Plattsburgh.

“It’s a huge year. We’re excited to finally get the word, and it has been a long long wait,” said Barrie Finnegan with North Country Honor Flight. He says that starting August 28th, the U.S. Oval in Plattsburgh will once again be filled with those ready to send off our veterans in style. “We’ve got things rolling right now, we’re going to be ready.”

The flights are free to 15 veterans and their guest-guardians taking them down to Washington D.C. to see the national war monuments built in their honor.

Veteran Michael Zmijewski was born in Poland and moved to the U.S. and enlisted in the Air Force. His first assignment was to Plattsburgh, and from there he headed to Vietnam in 1963. “‘The Vietnam conflict’ is what they called it at the time,” Zmijewski said.

He was supposed to be on an Honor Flight last year. “It’s one thing on my bucket list,” Zmijewski said. It would be his first time ever seeing the monuments and paying his respects to his fallen comrades, something he knows will be an emotional experience. “It’s going to bring back some memories that you don’t want to bring back.”

The nonprofit organization has four flights each year in Plattsburgh and they are not letting a global pandemic stop any more flights than it already has. “Our biggest fear of course is having veterans that don’t make the wait,” Finnegan said.

The waiting list is 200 veterans from Northern New York and Vermont spanning from World War 2 to Vietnam.

Covid restrictions could still be in place at take-off and all aboard will need a vaccine. “We’re prepared to do the masks if we need to do the masks -- that’s a minor inconvenience,” Finnegan said.

The flights are all paid for thanks to donations that came while the world was on pause, reminding the vets that their communities are grateful for their service and sacrifice.

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