86 WWII veterans arrive in D.C. on Big Sky Honor Flight

2013-04-21T05:57:00Z 2013-10-11T11:42:04Z 86 WWII veterans arrive in D.C. on Big Sky Honor FlightBy CINDY UKEN cuken@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

11:40: Big Sky Honor Flight No. 3 has landed at Dulles International Airport. The veterans were greeted at Dulles with water cannons salute courtesy of the Washington, D.C. Fire Department. Veterans applauded the landing and tribute.

Dozens of well-wishers then greeted the veterans and thanked them for their service as they made their way through the airport.

8:24 a.m.: With de-icing of the jetliner completed, World War II veterans and their support team lifted off from Logan International Airport on Sunday morning heading for Washington, D.C.

Flight organizers said 86 veterans are on the flight as one had to withdraw at the last minute.

Before departure, which had been scheduled for 7:30 a.m., veterans were each given a backpack filled with snacks, water and biographies of veterans on board. Each received a box of Girl Scout cookies.

Cheers erupted from passengers on the Sun Country charter flight as the jet went airborne on its way to the nation's capital.

5:30 a.m.: Dozens of World War II veterans are getting set to depart Billings Logan International Airport for the nation’s capital on the third Big Sky Honor Flight of Montana.

Flight organizers said 87 veteran are scheduled to make the flight to Washington D.C. on Sunday. The veterans range in age from 82 to 96. Five of the 87 veterans are women.

At 7:30 a.m., chartered Sun Country flight 8601 is scheduled to lift off and take the veterans to see the National World War II Memorial. On two flights last year, a total of 271 Montana veterans made the whirlwind trip.

Accompanying the veterans will be members of the all-volunteer Big Sky Honor Flight Committee, seven emergency medical response staff and numerous helpers. In addition, some family members will accompany the veterans on their 36-hour tour of war memorials and Arlington National Cemetery.

"I am more excited than I've ever been," committee chairwoman Tina Vauthier said early Sunday as veterans checked in at 5:45 a.m. "I feel energized. These men are so excited, so happy to be going, and so grateful. Is there anything more fulling than that?"

Robert Lubber, 87, is a U.S. Navy veteran and was looking forward to the trip.

"I am so grateful and so appreciative. I never, ever thought this would happen, that we could go as a group of veterans and share this experience," he said Sunday morning. "I'm going with people who went through a hell of a lot. It might be the last thing I ever do."

Billings Mayor Tom Hanel was at the airport Sunday morning to greet veterans. His wife, Robin, is traveling as a helper on the flight.

Staff from the Billings and Washington, D.C., offices of U.S. Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., joined the Billings send off. Baucus and his wife, Mel, will be at the National World War II Memorial on Monday to greet the veterans.

Staff members from the offices of U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., and U.S. Rep. Steve Daines, R-Mont., will serve as greeters in both Washington and in Billings. Staff members from both offices also are scheduled to be at the World War II Memorial to pay tribute to the men and women.

Copyright 2015 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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