Mid-Michigan Honor Flight Mission 10Contact: SFC Jeremy Mead 517-481-7734Agency: Military and Veterans Affairs
On September 25, 2018, Sixty-two veterans and their escorts, and a small group of Mid-Michigan Honor Flight staff members gathered at the Camp Grayling Joint Maneuver Training Center in northern Michigan before flying to Washington D.C. to view war memorials erected in recognition of their service to their country.
The Honor Flight, sponsored by Mid-Michigan Honor Flights, a regional hub of the National Honor Flight Network, was the tenth trip for the group. ‘Mission 10’ included 24 World War II veterans, 30 veterans of the Korean War, 7 Vietnam War veterans, and one Active Duty honoree. The veterans were escorted by volunteer guardians, all of them also veterans, and six MMHF staff members who made sure each special guest’s needs were met and to assist them on the flights and while maneuvering around the D.C. memorials.
Upon arrival at Camp Grayling each guest checked in with a MMHF official who issued credentials and assigned the veterans and escorts to a room in the CGJMTC Basic Officers Quarters (BOQs) where they could settle before reporting to the historic Camp Grayling Officer’s Club for dinner and fellowship.
During dinner, some of the veterans were recognized and presented with awards, many handshakes and hugs were exchanged, and a rich tapestry of memories was woven as veterans shared stories from their individual deployment experiences.
Isaac Fabela, a World War II veteran who served in the U.S. Army, was among the honored group. Fabela marked his 100th birthday this year. Identified by family and friends as “Ike” he received an official service recognition letter from both President Donald Trump and Vice-President Mike Pence. Ike was also presented with a Camp Grayling Commanders Coin from CGJMTC Deputy Commander, Lt. Col. Brian Burrell and he was identified by MMHF officials as the “Elder Statesman" of the group entitling him to not one but two escort ‘Guardians’ for the remainder of the mission. David Walsh served as the younger of Ike’s two guardians.
Walsh, a young man who is Cadet Commander in the local Student Civil Defense Patrol organization, plans to join the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) at his High School in the near future. While in D.C., MMHF officials noted that Walsh was mesmerized by the Sentinels at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. As a gift, the officials purchased a copy of the exclusive documentation of the elite 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, from which Tomb Sentinels are selected, and mailed it to Walsh in support of his military aspirations.
All of the veterans and their guardians stayed overnight in BOQs at Camp Grayling on Tuesday, Sept. 25, then flew out of the Cherry Capital Airport in Traverse City to the nation’s capital on Wednesday, Sept. 26, returned to their Camp Grayling quarters late in the evening and then returned to their homes on Thursday, Sept. 27.
Bob Green, the president-elect for the Mid-Michigan Honor Flight Board of Directors, said the organization would like to continue to use Camp Grayling as the hub for its fall flights.
“The Camp Grayling staff have bent over backward to provide the veterans, guardians, and our staff with the facilities and everything that we need,” Green said. He commended Camp Grayling officials for providing top-notch accommodations. “It’s just some really interesting, living history,” said Green, as the veterans were mingling together in a dining hall. “To be able to use this [event] and bring them back on a military base, and to get them all together to enjoy brotherhood and sisterhood is just awesome.”
From the time Mid-Michigan Honor Flight volunteers begin their contact-call-center early in the year to invite honorees to fly, to the day after the flight when MMHF staff return home, each flight requires no less than 200 volunteers and approximately $110,000. Some volunteers work in the background prior to the flight, others work specifically on the day of registration, or the day of the flight, or the day after. Some volunteers work all three days — it takes an army to make each flight memorable — and somehow they have never come up short. Every volunteer is welcomed and invited to participate, no matter the size of their contribution. The logistics of planning a complete Tour of Honor, from evaluating applications to registration the day before a flight, to the day after the flight; every step requires planning, extreme organization, and critical communication. Greg Locher who serves as the volunteer flight organizer for all Washington Reagan National Airport Honor Flights said it best in 2017,
"For some, it's their first time to D.C. For most, it's their last. But for all, it's a trip of a lifetime!
Read more about Mid-Michigan Honor Flights at midmichiganhonorflight.com. #ThankAVet