WASHINGTON, D.C. - Some veterans on the Upper Peninsula Honor Flight trip to Washington, D.C., Wednesday already knew one another.
Some had not previously met anyone else on the journey.
Then there were the "Ontonagon guys," as referrred to by person after person taking part in the flight.
Renee Prusi/Mining Journal
From the left, Upper Peninsula veterans Al Smith of Ontonagon, Frank Domitrovich of Ontonagon, Harry Albright of Ewen and Wilbert Perttula of Trout Creek pose for photos Wednesday at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. The four were participating in U.P. Honor Flight Mission V.
These gentlemen might not have all been close before signing up for Honor Flight, but they certainly enjoyed the time spent together Wednesday - and on Tuesday at the welcoming reception as well.
The quartet of veterans - along with the guardians assigned to accompany them on the journey - enjoyed the many memorials they visited side by side by side by side.
"Don (Bussiere, who became Frank's trip guardian) had told us about Honor Flight," said Frank Domitrovich of Ontonagon, a U.S. Army veteran. "He wanted us to go and boy, am I glad we did.
"This is absolutely great."
Prior to the trip, Domitrovich knew fellow veterans Harry Albright of Ewen, who served in the Army Air Corps, and Al Smith of Ontonagon, who had been in the Navy.
That trio welcomed Wilbert Perttula of Trout Creek, a Marine Corps veteran, to the fold as well as the other guardians: Steve Worcheck (Harry); Tom Smith (Al); and Ken Perttula (Wilbert).
"This is a beautiful trip," Domitrovich said as the quartet of WWII veterans from the western U.P. posed together for photos at the World War II Memorial. "And I am glad I am making it with this group of people."
Wednesday marked the fifth mission of U.P. Honor Flight and included 75 veterans, mostly from World War II. More than 400 veterans have been taken to Washington, D.C., to visit the World War II Memorial - which was dedicated in 2004 - and other patriotic landmarks since the first mission in September 2011.
In addition, the veterans and their guardians - volunteers who pay their way for the privilege of escorting an Honor Flight participant - were greeted upon arrival at the gate at Reagan National Airport by patriotic music played by volunteer Andrew J. Leighton.
Then as they arrived at the door that led them to the buses that would bring them around the nation's capital, an ensemble of Air Force musicians played patriotic and swing-era tunes.
At the day's final stop at the Air Force Memorial, the U.P. Honor Flight was dazzled by the precision routines of the U.S. Air Force Honor Guard Drill team, which performed intricate moves with M1 rifles with bayonets.
The drill team, in turn, was serenaded by the Honor Flight in celebrating the Air Force's 66th birthday. Then each member received a Yooper chocolate bar as a birthday treat and a thank-you for an entertaining close to a busy, memory-making visit.
Hundreds greeted the flight's return to Delta County Airport in Escanaba Wednesday night, wildly cheering their heroes' arrival home.
"It went wonderful," said Barb Van Rooy, U.P. Honor Flight organizer. "One of the veterans said to me he thought there were seven wonders of the world, but now he knows Honor Flight is the eighth wonder of the world."