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Honor Flight taking Norwood veteran to World War II memorial in Washington

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NORWOOD - A World War II veteran from Norwood will receive a special birthday gift this year.

James Liebfred, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II, will celebrate his 87th birthday on June 7. The following day, he and his son, David, will be on a plane for Washington, D.C. to visit the National World War II Memorial, thanks to the efforts of North Country Honor Flight.

“It’s like a birthday present,” Mr. Liebfred said.

Honor Flight is an organization that is dedicated to getting Veterans to Washington, D.C. to see their memorials. It’s an all-expense paid trip for the veteran, who must be accompanied by a guardian who pays $350 for the flight. In this case, his son will traveling as his guardian and Norwood American Legion Post 68 is sponsoring Mr. Liebfred and picking up the tab for his son.

“It’s first-come first-serve. We get a hold of people who want to go. Right now the Honor Flight is focusing on getting the World War II veterans taken care of,” said retired U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Michael L. Boprey, who serves as the director of the St. Lawrence County Veterans Services Department and service officer for Post 68.

“They’re taking World War II vets first, then Korea and Vietnam. They say over 1,000 World War veterans die each day,” said Mr. Liebfred’s daughter-in-law, Diane Liebfred.

Mr. Liebfred spent time in Guam, China and Iwo Jima during World War II. He was on Iwo Jima at the time the famous flag-raising picture was shot. The picture, depicting five U.S. Marines and a U.S. Navy corpsman raising the American flag atop Mount Suribachi during the Battle of Iwo Jima, was taken by Joe Rosenthal on Feb. 23, 1945.

“I wasn’t up on the mountain, but I wasn’t very far from it,” he said.

Those days are long gone, but Mr. Liebfred will have an opportunity to reflect on them next month during his one-day visit to the World War II Memorial. The memorial, which opened to the public on April 29, 2004 and was dedicated on May 29, 2004, honors the 16 million who served in the U.S. Armed Forces, the more than 400,000 who died, and all of those who support the war effort from home. It’s operated by the National Park Service.

The effort to build was monument was led by now-retired Sen. Bob Dole. It was funded by donations and private contributions.

“They had more than $197 million in pledges,” according to Mr. Boprey, who approached Mr. Liebfred about the trip. The visit was approved by the post’s members.

“I made the motion. He’s a long-standing member of the post. We also had a motion to pay David’s way,” he said.

It will be Mr. Liebfred’s first visit to the memorial. He and his brother had visited Washington before, but didn’t have the opportunity to see the memorial. They could see the George Washington Monument, but couldn’t make a left-hand turn to head to the World War II Memorial.

This time should be easier. Mr. Boprey said they’ll have a police escort from the airport. Their flight leaves Plattsburgh at 9 a.m. and, after arriving in Washington Mr. Liebfred and his son will take part in a ceremony, visit the monument, watch a movie, have dinner and fly back to Plattsburgh.

“They come from all over to Washington. They all meet in Washington, D.C. at the monument,” Ms. Liebfred said. “He talks about it every day.”

While he’s there, Mr. Liebfred said he plans to look for his unit’s name on the memorial to see if he can recognize any names.

“If they have a list of names down, I’d like to find my outfit. I can remember last names. We never used first names in the Marine Corps,” he said.

North Country Honor Flight, a non-profit organization based in Keeseville and founded by Director Daniel L. Kaifetz, is part of the National Honor Flight Network. Their mission is to transport America’s veterans to Washington, D.C. to visit those memorials dedicated to honor their sacrifices. Top priority is given to the senior veterans who are World War II survivors, along with those veterans who may be terminally ill.

Flights go monthly to Washington, D.C., and most Honor Flights consist of approximately 35 veterans and 20 volunteers (guardians, trip leaders and health professionals). Funding comes primarily from individuals, businesses and corporations across the north country. Other significant contributors are veterans organizations like local VFWs, American Legions, AmVets, DAV posts and chapters.

“Honor Flight is open to all veterans that want to get down and see their memorial. I try to put the word out. Every month in the post newsletter we have something veteran-related,” Mr. Boprey said.

They’re seeking not only veterans, but also guardians who can accompany and support the veterans, he said.

More information is available on their website, www.northcountryhonorflight.org or by calling (518) 834-9901.

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