April 13, 2014

Editorial: A gift of gratitude for WWII veterans

One by one, this area is losing its World War II veterans.

It is a sad prospect that can be ameliorated by letting them feel the widespread public respect they are accorded for the courageous service they performed in America’s name.

People who served during wartime are now in their late 80s and early 90s. And we have a chance to deliver a very personal thank you for all they did for the world decades ago, when they were young service members, by helping them get to Washington, D.C., to visit the memorial built in their honor.

Daniel Kaifetz had been giving local vets a ride to the VA Hospital in Albany for years when, one day, he picked up a local WWII veteran who had just returned from an Honor Flight arranged by another region. Kaifetz got interested in the idea and set to work organizing a North Country chapter. He is now its director, with a group of dedicated volunteers helping him out.

Local Honor Flight organizers figure there are still roughly 600 living World War II vets in Clinton and Essex counties. Some, of course, are unable to travel to Washington — even though the flights go there and back in one day.

North Country Honor Flight took 80 veterans to the memorial in the nation’s capital on five flights last year. Another seven flights are planned out of Plattsburgh International for this year, carrying 142 veterans total. The first local flight is planned for May 17.

After this year, local organizers figure, there would still be about 200 veterans who might want to take the trip.

The cost is well over $500 per veteran, counting the flights, other transportation, meals, flight gear (jacket, shirt and hat) and the full set of individual medals that Honor Flight orders for each veteran, based on his or her service record.

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