Honor Flight reunion to mark Pearl Harbor day

It was always about the veterans.

When local residents got together and joined the national Honor Flight Network, it raised donations to fly hundreds of local veterans to Washington, D.C., for free.

Though the flights are over, the honoring isn’t.

Today, on the 70th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, which brought the nation into World War II, that local group will honor hundreds of local veterans during a special reunion luncheon.

“We have 666 people coming,” said Kris Baugh, vice president of Western Slope Honor Flight. “We finished up the fifth and final flight, but we had funds left over. It’s about them, so we thought, ‘What can we do to kind close this out?’ That’s when we thought we’d do a dinner and invite all five flights.”

The group started the flights in August 2009 and took 520 veterans, not counting family members and guardians, to museums and other historical monuments in the nation’s capital.

Its last flight was in September.

Today’s reunion is expected to gather about half of the veterans who went on the flights, plus many others who helped make the flights happen, including numerous guardians who assisted them, Baugh said.

The event at Two Rivers Convention Center will feature several veterans, including two guest speakers, Navy Reserve Cmdr. Gary Wilson and retired U.S. Air Force Col. James D. West.

“Commander Wilson is a Navy reserve officer, and he’s going to speak on Pearl Harbor,” Baugh said. “Then we have Jim West. He’s got a Bronze Star for his time in Iraq, he flew 55 missions in Laos and Vietnam, so he’s got quite a rich military past.”

Grand Junction Police Chief John Camper, whose parents served in World War II, will offer closing remarks.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper ordered flags to be lowered in honor of those who died in that first battle. Other parts of the nation are holding commemorative events, including a major parade in Hawaii, where the attacks occurred.

The Daily Sentinel published a special section featuring several local veterans who survived Pearl Harbor and went on to fight in other battles in the war.

To view that section, go to http://www.gjsentinel.com/ww2.


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