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Kelly Smith, Published April 17 2009

Northern Valley veterans’ Honor Flight leaves today

Nearly 100 World War II veterans are flying out today for the third annual Northern Valley Honor Flight.

Most of the Red River Valley veterans – with an average age of 85 – are seeing the World War II memorial in Washington, D.C., for the first time.

“This is a lot of closure for these gentlemen,” coordinator Lance Akers said. “The memorial gives them a chance to reflect and think. It’s an unbelievable experience.”

The 95 vets – five of whom are women – leave today on a jet from Grand Forks for the two-day trip. It’s the fifth Northern Valley Honor Flight.

George Martin of Pelican Lake, Minn., knows what the trip will mean for this year’s group.

“It brings back a lot of memories,” said the 89-year-old World War II and Korean War veteran who went on last year’s flight. “You get talking. It was very emotional.”

If organizers raise enough, more local veterans will get the opportunity Martin got.

A second trip is planned for October, Akers said. But, he added that they need an additional $70,000 to make the fall trip a realization.

To donate to the Northern Valley Honor Flight, or for more information on the next trip, contact Akers at (701) 238-9298.

If you go

Readers can reach Forum reporter Kelly Smith at (701) 241-5515