The organization Honor Flight’s mission is to provide—at no cost—the opportunity for veterans of World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War to visit Washington, D.C. to experience the national war memorials built in their honor. Maine is one of 43 states with an active chapter, and this past May on Mothers’ Day weekend, 54 Maine residents traveled to the nation’s Capitol on this journey of honor and remembrance.
On Sunday, July 12, two members of the congregation of the Waterford Congregational Church and the guardians who accompanied them will share their memories of this unforgettable experience. Hosted by Bruce Wichard of Waterford, the photo presentation will be held at 11 am, following the regular worship service, at the Wilkins Community House next door to the Church on Plummer Hill Road in Waterford. Lori Sidelinger, Chair of Maine Honor Flight, will also participate in the event. A light lunch will be served.
Two WWII veterans will participate in the presentation with Wichard. Ralph Sylvester, 90, of Auburn served as a PFC with the 295 Combat Engineers in Europe, landing on Omaha Beach during the D-Day invasion, and continuing through France, Belgium and Germany to the historic ending at the Elbe River. Henry Plate, 89, of Waterford served state-side with the Army training cadre preparing new recruits for battle, attaining the rank of T-5. Lori Sidelinger, Chair of Maine Honor Flight, will also participate in the event.
Honor Flight was founded 10 years ago by a private pilot and physician’s assistant named Earl Morris to offer American veterans the privilege of seeing the memorials to them and their service erected in Washington. Currently, 100 Honor Flight chapters operate in the country. Private monies are raised to fund these twice a year events.
During the three-day stay in Washington, the 27 veterans and their 27 guardians are provided with a motorcycle escort to all the war memorials, including the Lincoln Memorial, the Battleship Maine Memorial, and the Tomb of the Unknown in Arlington National Cemetery, and others. They are feted and cheered at the airports at either end of the trip by grateful citizens. Sylvester said people’s reactions were unforgettable aspects of an overall wonderful experience. He described it as “something I’ll never forget.”
The worship service and the event are open to the public and everyone is welcome to attend.