Area Veterans Visit Memorials In Washington
Last May, a group of local veterans began to fill out registration forms after hearing an exciting announcement. The group was attending the Fenton Canteen, a Fenton History Center event held on the second Saturday of each month, where local Veterans gather to drink coffee and stay in touch with service friends old and new. It is also a key place to hear about what new activities and benefits are being offered to community Veterans through the Vets Finding Vets program, an initiative launched through the Fenton.
The announcement at this Canteen that had so piqued their interest was that the Buffalo Niagara Honor Flight would be making another trip to Washington, D.C., in September. Honor Flights allow veterans to travel to our nation’s capital, free of charge, to see the monuments dedicated to the conflicts they fought and served in. The registrations were accepted, and the group began the only hard part of the process: the waiting.
After months of anticipation, the group arrived at the Fenton Museum parking lot on Sept. 22 to board the Chautauqua County Veterans van which would transport them to their designated motel near the airport. Leaving at 3 p.m., they arrived just in time to enjoy pizza with all of the veterans, guardians and volunteers who would make up one bus of the three-bus convoy. In all, the flight carried 50 veterans, 50 guardians, and 16 honor flight volunteers to their destination in Washington.
The morning of Sept. 23, travelers boarded buses to head for the airport at 5:30 a.m., and arrived back in Buffalo at 11 p.m., tired and ready to rest, but amazed at all of the sights, sounds, camaraderie and memories they had gathered in the space of their 17-and-a-half hour adventure.
The comments of the Veterans as they journeyed back to Jamestown on Sunday were varied but universal:
Paul Arnone, WWII, said he was most surprised by the honor given to the Veterans from the general public, it was really something to remember.
Bill (Sarge) Karasek, Korea, thought the participation of school children, younger children and scouts who joined the throngs of well-wishers at the airport so early and so late was his biggest surprise.
Omer Post, WWII, commented that the visits to the different War Memorials had brought back many memories he had forgotten, adding that if it wasn’t for Buffalo Niagara Honor Flight, veterans from this area wouldn’t have this opportunity.
Ralph Robinson, WWII, was happy to note that despite the division within the country, there is a strong spirit of patriotism.
Dan Surber, Vietnam, guardian for his brother-in-law, was most touched by the changing of the Guard, and the wreath changing ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Lowell Post, guardian, stated that it was the chance of a lifetime to do this with his WWII father, adding that the respect generated from the general public was amazing.
Robert Richmond, guardian, had been at the Baltimore Airport on a business trip when a previous Honor Flight had come in, and after witnessing the “Welcome,” knew he had to become a part of it himself.
Barb Cessna, guardian and Vets Finding Vets Project Coordinator, offered huge thanks to the Buffalo Niagara Honor Flight Team, all volunteers, for the opportunity to witness this event. She added that it was an honor to accompany these local Veterans and will enjoy the many memories and stories forever.
Anyone wishing to register for the May 2018 Honor Flight should do so quickly, as it is already filling up. Inquiries may be made at 664-6256.