BENNINGTON -- U.S. Army veteran Edward Gray has an uplifted mood looking forward to his flight to the nation's capital on Saturday.
His daughter, Janet Michael told the Vermont Veterans' Home, 325 North St., "this will be the most meaningful event of his life," which Gray confirmed.
Leatherstocking Honor Flight is a nonprofit organization that seeks to honor veterans like Gray for their World War II service. With the company of two other veterans from the home, he will take off on the second airplane ride in his lifetime. Despite being afraid of flying, Gray said, "I'm excited; My kids said you'll never get a chance like that again."
The last time he was on a plane, Gray was flying back from his time in service. "I was supposed to go to Japan, but I chose to come home instead."
Before being given the opportunity to fight in Japan or go back to the U.S., Gray said the Japanese military invaded his camp. He said that one near-death experience by the hands of the public enemy was sufficient for one lifetime. "That was the third time I had been threatened with a bayonet, and I couldn't move. I had about had it," Gray said.
Gray will have a full day in the capital, highlighted by a trip to the World War II memorial. "All I want to do is to go down and see how (D.C.) looks, and how that board looks with all of the fallen World War II veterans on it," Gray said.
The honor flight will leave from Albany International Airport on a chartered plane. When the plane lands in D.C., the veterans will be received with a large welcome with servicemen carrying flags, which the veterans' home administrator, Melissa A. Jackson, said can be very emotional for the veterans.
Jackson said Gray had a change of character since he received his letter of acceptance for the flight. He has been building up his strength with a little exercise in preparation for a long day Saturday. "This is definitely something on their bucket list," Jackson said "Going to the memorial, where people honor you, is hard to put into words for these individuals."
"They feel like they are genuinely thanked by their country when they see this," said Col. Allan M. Faxon Jr., the veterans' home deputy administrator. "What is amazing about it: Once you start to see the campaigns and the battles that the World War II vets were at, you start to realize that the world would not be the same as it is today without these people."
Three staff members at the veterans' home are paying out of their own pocket to accompany the three men with their medical needs. To register a veteran or to register to accompany a veteran for future honor flights, go to http://www.leatherstockinghonorflight.org/.
For more information about the honor flight, and for a story about Air Force veteran Wilfred Rondeau who will be joining Gray on Saturday, see Keith Whitcomb's article, http://www.benningtonbanner.com/localnews/ci_25031268/air-force-vet-glad-be-honor-flight.
Contact Tom Momberg at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @TomMomberg.