MASSENA — Massena resident Vern Mauk was placed in the back of a state police car Friday afternoon, but it was all good.
Mr. Mauk, a Korean War veteran, was being escorted to Plattsburgh to catch a North Country Honor Flight to Washington, D.C.
The state police weren’t alone with the escort. They were accompanied by nearly 30 motorcycle riders who escort veterans headed for an Honor Flight. Also on hand were representatives from area veteran’s clubs.
With veterans saluting and others waving American flags or holding a giant flag, the escort took Mr. Mauk from his home on Old Farm Circle, through the village and on to Route 37 as the first leg of the Plattsburgh trip. State troopers finished their portion of the escort at Fort Covington, when that mission was picked up by another group. Along the way, fire departments had set up trucks on the side of the road to salute Mr. Mauk as he went by.
Mr. Mauk said he had visited Plattsburgh last winter and an individual at a cycle shop saw his veteran’s cap.
“He asked me, ‘Have you ever been on an Honor Flight,’” Mr. Mauk said.
He hadn’t, and it wasn’t long before arrangements were made to put him on the list of veterans. That list currently has about 130 veterans waiting for their opportunity. North Country Honor Flight, which was founded in 2013, completes three to five flights a year from Plattsburgh to Washington, D.C.
The nonprofit Honor Flight Network, now in its 14th year, has chapters across the country. Its task is to pay tribute to veterans by taking them to see and reflect at the nation’s war memorials in Washington at no cost to the veteran. Top priority is given to World War II and terminally ill veterans from all wars, and has now expanded to include Korea and Vietnam veterans.
Each veteran travels with a dedicated guardian responsible for his or her comfort and safety. In Mr. Mauk’s case, he’s being accompanied by his daughter, Heidi, a retired U.S. Air Force major.
Their Saturday itinerary includes a ceremony at the U.S. Oval Parade Grounds before traveling to Plattsburgh International Airport. Once in Washington, the stops include Arlington National Cemetery for a changing of the guard; the Marine Corps Memorial; National World War II, Korea and Vietnam memorials; and Air Force Memorial.
Late in the afternoon, they’ll transit to Dulles International Airport for the return flight to Plattsburgh, which arrives shortly before 9 p.m. Saturday
“I’m looking forward to all of it,” Mr. Mauk said.
More information about North Country Honor Flight can be found at http://www.nchonorflight.org.