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Legislature recognizes Utah Honor Flight program for WWII vets

SALT LAKE CITY — Something about seeing World War II veterans visiting the memorial built to them in Washington, D.C., touched 11-year-old Cameron Buckley.

The West Haven boy saw their reactions on a KSL-TV special about Utah Honor Flight, a program that takes veterans to the World War II and Korean War memorials for the first time.

"They were very happy, and I just wanted to make them happy also," Cameron said.

And then he had a thought: Wouldn't it be cool if he could raise money for at least one veteran to make the trip?

With the help of his mom, Cameron baked and sold goodies to family and friends. He made $1,050, enough to cover the cost for a veteran to travel on Utah Honor Flight to the nation's capital. Now he and his grandmother are making a quilt to sell.

"My goal is to send two," he said.

Cameron wheeled Navy veteran Rowland Senior to the Utah Senate floor Wednesday as the Legislature recognized Utah Honor Flight with an official citation. In all, lawmakers greeted six veterans at the Capitol — four who have made the trip to Washington and two who are going.

Senior said he was honored to have Cameron push his wheelchair.

"He was able to get the money so that I could fulfill a dream, so I'm very grateful and thankful to him," he said, adding his trip to the memorial last October was a life-changing experience.

House Speaker Greg Hughes, R-Draper, said in recognizing the veterans who assembled on the House floor for the reading of the citation, "there is a debt that none of us will ever repay."

"We wish to the Utah Honor Flight success in its mission and express our desire to help preserve the legacy of our veterans so that no generation will ever forget their service," the citation read in part.

Rep. Brad Dee, R-Ogden, challenged the House to sponsor its own Honor Flight, as he has done for several veterans over the past year and a half.

"It was one of the greatest experiences I've ever had," Dee said of accompanying Utah veterans to Washington, D.C.

And there are many veterans in Utah who need to have the experience of seeing the nation's memorials to their service, he said.

Dee said meeting with veterans and their families, hearing what they went through during the war "was so emotional for me."

Since opening a local branch of the nationwide nonprofit program, Utah Honor Flight has taken more than 200 veterans on five flights to Washington.

In addition to the World War II and Korean War memorials, the veterans visit the Air Force and Marine memorials and Arlington National Cemetery. A guardian, typically a son or daughter or grandchild, accompanies each veteran at their own expense. Honor Flight covers the cost for the veteran.

About 8,000 World War II veterans live in Utah, few of whom have seen their memorial. An estimated 650 members of the "Greatest Generation" die each day across the country.

As Cameron left the Senate floor, he received an unsolicited donation. Sen. Mark Madsen, R-Saratoga Springs, stuffed some bills into his shirt pocket. And he wasn't alone. The boy said others handed him money as he made his way through the Capitol.

Contributing: Lisa Riley Roche

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