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Utah WWII Veteran hopes Honor Flight becomes reality

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) - It's a way to give back to the veterans who've given so much. The Honor Flight flies World War II, Korean and Vietnam vets to Washington to see the war memorials-- free of charge. But now despite dozens of Utah vets already signed up to go, a lack of funds may keep those wheels on the ground.
SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) - It's a way to give back to the veterans who've given so much. The Honor Flight flies World War II, Korean and Vietnam vets to Washington to see the war memorials-- free of charge.

But now despite dozens of Utah vets already signed up to go, a lack of funds may keep those wheels on the ground.

That thought is disappointing to Jose F. Maestas, who has a lot to be proud of in his long life. The Utah veteran served in WWII and he and his wife of 63 years adopted three children afterwards.

His daughter said his sacrifice to his country deserves the spotlight. “Huge contribution especially at that time,” said Cammy Hobbs.

Maestas spent three years overseas, first building infrastructure in England.

“Built a dock for the troops to get in,” he said.

When bombing began he went on to guard Nazi prisoners in Germany. He even had to say goodbye to fellow solider who died at sea.

“They threw him in the water, they wrapped him up in a flag and they dumped it in the water,” he said.

In the decades that followed the war, Maestas always wanted a place to pay his respects to those who didn't come home.

“My mom and dad had been wanting to go to this war memorial when it opened in 2004 and they had not got to because my mom had passed away,” said Hobbs.

Maestas has signed up to participate in Utah’s first ever Honor Flight, but funding has hit a stand still.

Organizers say with WWII vets dying at a rate of 600 a day-- time is running out.

“The youngest ones, the ones that probably lied to get in at 17 years at the end of WWII are now approaching 88, 89, 90 years old, so we really do have to move fast to get these people there,” said Dan Curtis, an organizer.

At 92 years-old, Maestas knows how precious time is. Seeing the memorials built in his honor is one accomplishment he's still waiting to make.

“I was in the service and we earned it,” he said.

Organizers say they need to raise around $8,000-$10,000 more in order to get the group of Utah veterans to D.C. before Veteran's Day. They're looking for individual or corporate donations.

If you'd like to help the cause or learn more about the Honor Flight, click here.

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