OAKLAND (CBS SF) — Oakland Vice Mayor Annie Campbell Washington launched a public outreach campaign Tuesday aimed at finding 26 Oakland World War II veterans to participate in an honor flight to Washington, D.C., this fall to celebrate their service to the U.S.

The veterans who are selected will fly to Washington, D.C., for an all-expenses paid trip to the World War II Memorial, will attend a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and visit other memorials.

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The expenses for the veterans will be paid by the Honor Flight Network, which is a national non-profit organization whose mission is to recognize the contributions of war-era veterans by taking them to the nation’s capitol to see monuments, memorials and items of historical importance.

But Campbell Washington said she and a group of veterans, elected officials and volunteers are trying to raise at least $52,000 to pay for guardians to accompany vets on the trip, which is from Sept. 8 to 10.

She said, “We want to make sure each veteran has a guardian with them so they are well taken care of.”

Campbell Washington said the search for 26 vets from Oakland is “an urgent request” because most World War II veterans are in their 90s and may not have much longer to live.

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She said, “We want veterans who haven’t been there yet to see their memorial in Washington, D.C.”

Campbell Washington said she and other community leaders hope to find eligible vets through a variety of means, such as holding a community meeting at City Hall in April and distributing fliers at churches, veterans centers, senior centers and health care facilities.

She said if organizers can’t find 26 World War II vets from Oakland they would try to fill the flight by using World War II vets from nearby cities or Korean War vets who live in Oakland.

The fundraising campaign was launched at a news conference on the steps of Oakland City Hall Tuesday where Campbell Washington was joined by City Council President Pro Tem Larry Reid, Honor Flight Bay Area Foundation President Carl Stewart, who’s a retired U.S. Navy captain, Charles Blatcher, III, the chairman of the National Coalition of Black Veteran Organizations, and other veterans.

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