By ALAN GOODMAN Special to the Press-Republican
---- — PLATTSBURGH — John F. Kennedy is one of 32 World War II veterans scheduled to fly to out Saturday as part of the latest North Country Honor Flight.
The Plattsburgh man, who bears almost the same name as the 35th U.S. president, actually met him aboard the U.S. Coast Guard cutter USS Eagle in 1962, where he served as master chief boatswain’s mate.
Kennedy, whose middle name is Francis, said that the president was very easy to talk with, since they were both World War II veterans.
The president asked the Plattsburgh man if he had any trouble with his name, and he replied that he’d had none at all, that he was “very proud to have that name.”
“I thought you might be getting blamed for some of my mistakes,” the president responded with a wide smile.
‘NEVER GOT HIT’
Kennedy, 88, who served on a light cruiser in the South Pacific during World War II, fought in the critical battles of Leyte Gulf and Luzon, among others.
“I was in a lot of action, but we never got hit,” he said from his Plattsburgh home on Friday.
Sharp in his memory is a typhoon that overturned three destroyers and ripped a sea plane from where it had been lashed to the stern of his ship.
“That gives you an idea of how rough it was,” he said.
PenAir will send two aircraft to fly the veterans, 32 guardians and four Honor Flight crew members to and from Washington, D.C., to visit the National World War II Memorial.
A flag-raising ceremony for them will be observed at the Plattsburgh Veterans Park at the U.S. Oval at 6:45 a.m. Saturday. It will be followed by a motorcycle motorcade around the Oval and neighborhood before proceeding to Plattsburgh International Airport.
An 8 a.m. send-off ceremony will be held at the baggage-claim area. The public in invited and encouraged to attend both ceremonies. The flights are scheduled to depart at 10 and 10:15 a.m.
The Honor Flight will be bused from Baltimore Airport to the memorial mall in Washington, D.C, where the veterans will have several hours to tour the World War II Memorial.
They will also see a changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and visit the Iwo Jima Monument and Arlington National Cemetery.
Before departing Baltimore, the flight members will have dinner at a local American Legion.
The return flights are scheduled to arrive at Plattsburgh International Airport at 11 and 11:15 p.m.
Kennedy’s son Patrick will accompany him to the nation’s capital, where they might just pay their respects at the grave of the better known JFK.
John Francis is looking forward to the trip with his fellow veterans.
“I think it will be a grand experience,” he said.
VETS AT HOME
Veterans who traveled to Washington with the first two North Country trips will have a presence at the ongoing Battle of Plattsburgh Commemoration here at home this weekend.
They will be guests of honor tonight at the fireworks display from the steps of City Hall.
And they will ride a North Country Honor Flight float in the Battle of Plattsburgh parade at 1 p.m. Saturday.
North Country Honor Flight, part of the National Honor Flight Network, is a nonprofit organization created solely to honor area veterans for all their sacrifices.
Honor Flight’s mission is to transport them, at no cost, to Washington, D.C., to visit and reflect at their memorials. Top priority is given to the senior veterans who are World War II survivors, along with those who may be terminally ill.
To ask about becoming a future flight honoree, volunteer, guardian or to offer any assistance to the program, go to northcountryhonorflight.org.
— News Editor Suzanne Moore contributed to this report