Line up for local vets: Honor Flight takes off this month

John “Dusty” Smith, a World War II veteran and Lake Placid resident, watches a parade honoring his military service and community presence on Jan. 2, 2023. Smith is one of a group of veterans who will be taking the first Honor Flight of the year this month. (Enterprise photo — Lauren Yates)

Thirty North Country veterans will embark on a whirlwind tour of Washington’s war memorials on Saturday during North Country Honor Flight’s first flight of the year. The group includes two Tri-Lakes veterans — Barry Badore of Saranac Lake and Dusty Smith of Lake Placid — who’ll get a special local send-off on Friday.

Between 1 and 1:30 p.m. on Friday, Smith and Badore will be picked up from their homes on Smith Lane in Lake Placid and Church Street in Saranac Lake, respectively, by honor flight organizers. They’ll be escorted out of town by first responders. The community is invited to participate in the send-off.

“We’ve taken 780 veterans to D.C. and, to a person, when they come back, they say it’s one of the best days of their lives. That’s why we do it,” said Janet Duprey, North Country Honor Flight director of operations and former state Assembly member.

Duprey said that, for many veterans, the honor flight is their first trip to Washington.

“Most of them are pretty much in awe of, certainly, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the World War II Memorial, the Vietnam wall — which can be very emotional, very difficult for our Vietnam veterans and can also be calming and relieving,” she said.

Veteran Barry Badore of Saranac Lake poses with his daughter, Sarah. (Photo provided — Sarah Fitzgerald)

North Country Honor Flight is a nonprofit, completely volunteer-run organization, a chapter of the larger Honor Flight Network. Though Clinton, Essex and Franklin counties make annual donations to the honor flight, the majority of the flights’ costs is covered by fundraising, Duprey said.

“The North Country’s a wonderful place. They care about their veterans,” she said.

After being escorted to Plattsburgh, the veterans will enjoy a big dinner on Friday evening. Then, Saturday morning, they’ll participate in Thunder in the Burgh — a parade-style send-off for the veterans that starts at 6:15 a.m. at the Champlain Center Mall and ends at U.S. Oval Park.

A military ceremony to honor the veterans will begin at the oval at 7 a.m. During the ceremony, Duprey reads a biography of every veteran on the flight.

“It’s been great meeting and talking with each of them,” she said. “I have the privilege of writing a bio and reading it at each ceremony in respect to every veteran, and for many of them, it’s the first time they’ve felt respected.”

After the ceremony, the veterans will travel by motorcade to Plattsburgh International Airport, where they’ll board two charter planes that will take them to Washington Dulles International Airport.

In Washington, the veterans and their companions will get to visit the World War II Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial and U.S. Air Force Memorial, as well as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery. They’ll return to Plattsburgh around 8:15 p.m. Saturday.

For more information about future honor flights, visit northcountryhonorflight.org.


Badore, 76, is originally from Tupper Lake. He currently lives in Saranac Lake and is a veteran of the Army. This is his first honor flight, but his fourth visit to Washington. He served for 22 years, including 11 years of active duty and two years in Vietnam.

“I joined (in 1970) because I wasn’t going to get drafted,” he said.

He was a mechanic with the 50th mechanized infantry, which served under the 173rd airborne brigade in Vietnam. In Vietnam, Badore helped to recover vehicles while under fire. He also helped carry wounded soldiers and those killed in action from choppers to the infirmary. While in Vietnam, he was exposed to Agent Orange.

“A lot of people thought I was a coward, not going in the bush,” Badore said of his service. “(But I) still had to go in the field and cover vehicles. … It’s no fun going out there.”

Badore, who retired as a sergeant, comes from a military family. He was one of two brothers who enlisted in the Army. A third brother served in the Air Force, and a fourth in the Navy. Though he said he sees his service as his “duty,” he’s looking forward to seeing the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington with his daughter, Sarah, who’s serving as his companion on the trip.


Smith, 100, is a Lake Placid native and the oldest living World War II veteran in Lake Placid.

He served in the Army from 1943 to 1945 in Italy and France as a radar operator. At the time, radar was a brand-new invention.

“I said, ‘How did you learn to run radar?'” his son, Richard, said. “He said, ‘They just told me, there it is, figure it out for yourself.'”

Dusty went on another honor flight, about ten years ago. This one will be extra special, though: he’ll be accompanied by sons Richard and William, who are also veterans. They’ll be pulling double duty, serving as their father’s companion as well as honored veterans in their own rights.

“It’s kind of unique that all three of us are going,” Richard said. “(My father) is really excited about going.”

Dusty’s next-door neighbor, who often spends time with him, plans to meet him down in Washington and spend the day touring the monuments with him, something Richard said Dusty is looking forward to.

“(It’s) a darn busy day,” Richard said. “I think the people who are behind this honor flight are tremendous, getting all of this coordinated.”


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *

Starting at $4.75/week.

Subscribe Today