(WGGB/WSHM) - Sometimes, the medical care or professional help we need isn't right in our backyard or even a short drive for that matter, and for aging veterans, it can be difficult to get to those much needed appointments.

For the past seventeen years, Jesus Pereira has been enjoying life from up above.

"I really don't like driving, but do enjoy flying," Pereira tells us.

Jesus served twenty-one years in the Massachusetts National Guard, working closely with aviation battalions.

After returning home from a deployment to the Middle East, he found himself driving to White River Junction, Vermont and other far away places.

That's when he decided to ditch the car and start Vet Air.

"It started off with just having to meet medical appointments and sometimes, when you create barriers to healthcare, they just don't want to deal with it. If they have to drive to two hours to go somewhere, they'll just forgo the treatment and I figured give them an experience, give them a fast way to get there, and something to talk about and they'll probably do it," explained Pereira.

With twelve volunteer pilots, the non-profit usually takes four or five veterans a month to their medical care appointments free of charge.

The organization also offers compassion flights.

"It's a request for someone who has a tie to aviation or just something they want to do before they pass away. In the past, we've done stuff where we've taken Gold Star parents, parents who have lost their kids in service over areas where they've gone camping. Today, this paratrooper wanted to go flying one last time and that's what we did," continued Pereira.

Earlier this month, Jesus took up World War II veteran Joseph Chevalier.

The 94-year-old served in the 509th Parachute Infantry Battalion from 1943 to 1946 and has a Purple Heart, Distinguished Unit Badge, and Bronze Service Arrowhead.

After taking off from Northampton Airport, Jesus took Joseph around Mt. Tom and by the Holyoke Soldiers' Home for a special experience Joseph will never forget.

"I flew around. It was nice. It was perfect. Very nice. Everything looked so different from up there. Everything is pretty," stated Chevalier.

"The smile on that man's face. World war II veteran and one thing he wanted to do before he left this Earth and he was able to do it," says Pereira.

This month, we salute Jesus Pereira and his commitment to helping veterans receive the critical care and happy moments they need.

If you would like to nominate a local veteran, active or retired, whose story should be heard, you can email us at salute@western mass news.com.

Copyright 2019 Western Mass News (Meredith Corporation).  All rights reserved.

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