The fifth and final flight from Bismarck of World War II veterans leaves Friday morning for Washington, D.C., to visit the World War II Memorial and other national monuments.
Roughrider Honor Flights from Bismarck have escorted more than 500 World War II veterans on the two-day trips, and this final flight will complete the waiting list, according to Honor Flight committee chairman Kevin Cramer.
Cramer said the committee had made a commitment to continue the flights as long as there were any World War II veterans able and willing to go.
In addition to the 500 who have left from Bismarck, an additional 800 veterans traveled on flights from Fargo and Grand Forks.
While in Washington, the groups tour the World War II Memorial, completed in 2004, as well as the Lincoln Memorial, the Vietnam and Korea memorials and the Iwo Jima memorial. They also tour Arlington National Cemetery and watch the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns.
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No veteran ever pays any cost for the trip. All the trips have been funded by donations from businesses, groups and individuals. The cost for each previous flight was about $165,000. Because of rising fuel costs and the size of the final flight, with more than 125 veterans, this flight will approach a cost of $200,000, Cramer said.
The World War II Memorial pays tribute to the 16 million Americans who served during those war years. Of 69,000 men and women from North Dakota who served, it is estimated only a couple of thousand are still alive.
Cramer said that the Honor Flight committee hears from veterans' families that the Honor Flight allows many to open up about their service experiences and share a first-hand experience with history.
Roughrider Honor Flights are part of the Honor Flight Network, a program started in 2004 by Earl Morse, a physician assistant and retired Air Force captain. There are more than 100 Honor Flight hubs across the country working to provide veterans with this opportunity.
The Bismarck flight is planned to return to Bismarck on Saturday, with touchdown at about 8:40 p.m. The public is encouraged to come to the airport that evening to greet veterans and thank them for their service.