SACO — Seventy years after the end of World War II, Honor Flight Maine is helping veterans complete one last mission.

Honor Flight Maine is the local hub of the Honor Flight Network, an organization formed to give veterans the opportunity to go to Washington, D.C. to see the monument from the war they served in. Top priority is given to World War II veterans.

John “Benny” Woodbury, a 91-year-old World War II veteran from Saco, was one of 27 veterans who went on an Honor Flight trip to Washington D.C., leaving Maine on Friday, May 8, and arriving back Sunday, May 10.

Woodbury said he had once before seen the Iwo Jima Memorial, which was constructed in 1954. He said he wanted to go back to D.C. to see the World War II monument, which opened in 2004, but never got the chance until a friend of his from the American Legion told him about Honor Flight, and he was accepted into the program.

“I thought I’d better hurry up,” he said.

The war memorials and the changing of the guard at Arlington National Cemetery were very impressive, said Woodbury, and he enjoyed the bus tour around Washington D.C.

“You couldn’t put a price on it, it was that good,” he said, of the weekend.

The May trip was the third trip sponsored by Honor Flight Maine, which was formed a few years ago and sent its first group of veterans to D.C. in 2014, said Honor Flight Maine Board Secretary Jennifer Dunfee. Honor Flight Maine is hoping to run its next trip in November, she said. Prior to 2014, some Mainers were able to go to Washington D.C. through Honor Flight New England.

All veterans who go on an Honor Flight Maine trip are assigned a support person, or guardian, to tend to them. Guardians receive training through Honor Flight, said Dunfee.

Woodbury said he was paired with Kevin Balvin, a firefighter and an Iraqi war veteran.

“I can’t say enough about him, how good he was. He couldn’t do enough for me,” said Woodbury.

Twenty-seven veterans and their guardians and a group leader attend each Honor Flight trip, the number needed to fill the 55 seat bus that takes the group through D.C.

The trip is free to all veterans, and is a way to pay them for their sacrifice and service to our country,

said Dunfee.

The cost of the trip is about $700, and guardians are asked to make a $500 donation, said Dunfee. The program operates on private donations, sponsorships and money from fundraising events.

“They paid the whole blessed thing,” said Korean War Veteran Dick Clark, 85, of Saco and a friend of Woodbury. “They were just spectacular. It was a really good trip, well-organized.”

What gets Clark “choked up” is talking about the reception they received in the airport with applause filling the concourse.

“We came home, and the place was crowded,” said Woodbury.

Honor Flight veterans are greeted by a “welcome wagon” of volunteers when they arrive in Baltimore, and by another welcome wagon of volunteers and family when they arrive back in Portland, she said.

For more information on Honor Flight Maine, go to www.honorflightmaine.org.

— Staff Writer Liz Gotthelf can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 325 or [email protected]



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