A chance trip to the Veterans Administration office in Bangor led to 92-year-old Orono resident Claude Westfall having what he called one of the most memorable occasions in his long life.

Westfall, who was a professor at UMaine for more than 36 years, had gone to the VA office to get some documentation, when a staffer there mentioning Honor Flight Maine, a non-profit organization that honors America’s veterans for all their service and sacrifices; Honor Flight transfers our heroes to Washington, D.C. to tour, experience and reflect at their memorials.

“I didn’t give it too much thought, but then I got a call about a week later,” said Westfall. “They asked if I was interested in going on the flight. I said yes. I am glad it happened; it was a moving experience.”

But then I got a call about our most frail veterans – terminally ill veterans of all conflicts and World War II survivors.

Westfall was among 45 Maine veterans, who, with people designated their guardians for the trip – in Westfall’s case, his granddaughter, Stephanie Daigle – took a bus ride to Portland, then flew south to Washington DC.

“It was amazing. There was a band play, and thousands of greeters there for us,” said Westfall. “It was something I’ll never forget.”

Westfall, who served in the Marines in the Pacific during World War II, said he got to visit places such as veterans’ cemeteries and monuments on his trip, including the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, an experience he found particularly moving.

“There were so many highlights, some things that would bring tears to your eyes,” he said. “I’m glad I was fortunate enough to  make the trip. Some people had to be pushed in wheelchairs to see everything, but I was able to walk with my granddaughter, to see things up close. Ot was one of the top five things I’ve ever done. If other veterans get the chance to make the trip, I encourage them to do so.”

If you know a veteran who may be interested in Honor Flight, go to https://www.honorflightmaine.org.

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