WWII vets at PDX awaiting Honor Flight to D.C.

WWII vets at PDX awaiting Honor Flight to D.C.

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by Nina Mehlhaf, KGW Staff

kgw.com

Posted on October 4, 2013 at 8:34 AM

Updated Friday, Oct 4 at 1:04 PM

PORTLAND -- It took some work, but 50 World War II veterans from around Oregon will get to see their Washington, D.C. memorial this weekend, despite the government shutdown.

They flew out of Portland Friday morning on an Honor Flight. Al Steinmetz, a WWII veteran from Eugene was all smiles.

"I've always wanted to have the chance, but I've never had the chance before and now I waited 'til I was 91 and had a chance so that's important, he said."

Shirley Heermans of Florence served as a Petty Officer First Class in the Coast Guard at 20-years-old. Now, she's on a trip of a lifetime.

"I have a hard time getting around so this is a wonderful opportunity for me," she said. "I'm going to cry because it's so overwhelming. It's wonderful!"

An estimated that 1,500 WWII vets are dying every day, so the rush is on to get as many as possible to D.C. to see the history they built. But the government shutdown of the FDR, Lincoln, Vietnam and Korean memorials means this group will not be able to see them.

They also cannot visit the Women in Military Service to America Museum or the Marine Corp Memorial. It's considered a slap in the face to this group commonly known as The Greatest Generation.

"It's probably typical for Washington, actually, so we're going to be in the midst of it," said Bill Mosier, a veteran from Eugene.

Don Schimonitz is an honor flight escort and agrees, "It is frustrating but this whole weekend is for the vets and to escort them and that's our mission is to respect them."

The Honor Flight is getting support from Senator Ron Wyden and Congressman Peter Defazio to get access to some of the memorials.

They'll return Sunday to a full honor guard and police escort inside the terminal.

Background: Vets head to D.C. amid shutdown uncertainty

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