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Local News

February 24, 2013

WWII veterans to embark on flight of honor

PLATTSBURGH — After 67 years, local veterans will experience a sense of closure alongside those with whom they fought in World War II.

Although the war ended in 1945, the memorial in Washington, D.C., wasn’t completed until 2004. Many veterans haven’t had a chance to see this testament to their service and sacrifice yet.

And about 800 World War II veterans die each day.

“The greatest generation of our country is leaving us,” said Danny Kaifetz, director of North Country Honor Flight.

Kaifetz and a board of eight others are making it their mission to enable as many veterans as possible see their monument in Washington, D.C.

“I haven’t seen any of the monuments,” 93-year-old U.S. Army veteran Francis G. Delumyea said. “It’ll be a nice trip to Washington to see what they’ve come up with (to honor WWII veterans).”

The veterans get five-star treatment on the flight, Kaifetz said. For them, all expenses are paid. A “guardian,” which may be a family member, is assigned to each veteran, and medical personnel travel with the group to ensure the veterans have the care they need.

The first flight is set for Saturday, May 18, and five area veterans have already signed up.

Their stories are ones of strength, bravery and resilience.

VALUE OF PEACE

Merwin I. Cowles was 18 when he was drafted to the U.S. Marines in September 1943. After boot camp, he was made squad leader for an amphibious tractor that was used to transport the wounded who were stranded on islands in the South Pacific to a hospital ship nearby.

“Anybody that says they’re not scared is full of s---,” Cowles, now 87, said. 

He fought at the battles of Sugar Loaf Hill and Okinawa, and war had a lasting impact on him.

The value of peace was a lesson learned in the war, he said.

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