Feb 13, 2013 9:27 AM by Samantha Ptashkin

Old pals help Green Valley WWII vet take trip of a lifetime

GREEN VALLEY, Ariz.- Every morning under the golden arches at the Continental Shopping Plaza McDonald's, a group of Green Valley men in their golden years, reminisce about the good 'ole days.

There are a couple dozen in all and all except two are veterans of war. "They're veterans from Vietnam, some Korean and World War II," says 76-Year-Old Gene Ulrich, who isn't a veteran, but a long-standing member of the group.

Their daily morning meetings at Mickey D's started in 1997. A group of men meeting at random, and through the years, the size of the group grew.

It's a time to talk sports, politics and people. "Everything and anything, but it's all clean," Ulrich says with a smile.

Lately their conversation has turned to a different topic, the Southern Arizona Honor Flight. It's a free, three-day trip to Washington DC, given to WWII vets who want to see the National WWII Memorial.

"I signed up for it about a year ago and was put on the waiting list," says 83-Year-Old Don Kershner, a WWII Navy vet who has been a staple at the McDonald's meetings for the past seven years.

Ulrich called up the honor flight office in Tucson and found out there were 224 other vets on the waiting list and it could be more than two years before Kershner got on a flight.

But when you're 83, a couple of years is a long time. "We like Don and we wanted him to see this before he got too old to enjoy it," says 77-Year-Old Fred Lawrence, a Korean War Veteran.

The group found out if they raised enough money to pay for Kershner's trip, there would be a possibility he could get bumped to an earlier flight.

In December 2012 they started raising the money and it only took a couple weeks to come up with $1,260, enough to pay for Kershner's trip. "I was just very tickled, very surprised and pleased," Kershner says.

Kershner will leave for DC at the end of March. Lawrence will be his guardian on the trip. "We wouldn't be here today if it wasn't for these people," Lawrence says.

Now the group is on a mission to spread the word about the Southern Arizona Honor Flight. They're encouraging everyone they know to donate.

If you would like to participate head to: www.honorflightsaz.org/


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