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Local Veterans Visit Capital Through ‘Honor Flight’

This photo taken at the Hampton Inn in Cheektowaga just prior to the Buffalo Niagara Honor Flight Pizza Party for Veterans and their Guardians. Pictured are WWII Veteran Robert Coon and Joe Gugino, WWII Veteran Cedio Gizzi and Rob Gizzi, WWII Veteran Richard Ketcham and Rick Ketcham, Korea Veteran Robert Selfridge and Kay Green not pictured, Korea Veteran Edwin Nelson and Tracy Emerson, Korea Veteran Harry West and Dan West. Submitted photo

Buffalo Niagara Honor Flight completed its seventh mission to enable Western New York veterans to visit the war memorials in Washington, D.C. It also marks the third Flight in which Fenton History Center’s Vets Finding Vets Program has worked with various local Veterans toward that same goal.

Chautauqua County Veterans Services has provided transportation to and from Buffalo for these past three flights, and on Friday, Oct 19, it stopped at Fenton History Center and Fredonia Place before making its way to the Hampton Inn in Cheektowaga. Once there, five very excited local Veterans and Guardians joined another 38 Veterans and their Guardians for the Pizza Party Meet and Greet which kicks off the scheduled events.

On Saturday morning, the Veterans, guardians and Honor Flight volunteers made a very early trip to the airport to catch an earlier flight than usual and begin what most describe as “the trip of a lifetime.” BNHF makes determined efforts to tweak the full day of sightseeing and visits to Memorials in order to help Veterans feel truly appreciated for their service, whether it was during WWII, Korea, or Vietnam.

When asked what the favorite part of the trip was, all agreed that they were most amazed by the level of organization and attention to details by the Honor Flight team.

Of the five local Veterans, two served during WWII — Cedio Gizzi of Westfield and Richard Ketcham of Fredonia.

Cedio Gizzi chose the reverent and solemn ritual of the Changing of the Guard as his favorite memory.

Richard Ketcham enjoyed the Naval Museum most — especially the little room dedicated to submarines — bringing back memories of his service.

Edwin Nelson (Korea) had many favorites but was most surprised by the many good memories of his service that came flooding back.

Robert Selfridge (Korea) who proclaimed this trip as the best he’s ever been on, spent the most time in the Naval Museum. Since he was aboard an aircraft carrier during service he especially enjoyed the models of different aircraft.

Harry West (Korea) was most overwhelmed by the many well-wishers at the Buffalo Airport, including very early Saturday morning and Saturday night when they came back. A huge surprise to him was the many family members who came in the morning and even more family that evening.

Family members or friends who accompanied the Veterans were amazed at the outpouring of sincere appreciation showered on the Honor Flight Veterans from complete strangers everywhere they went. All were thankful to have been present to share the many high points with their Veteran.

Barb Cessna, Vets Finding Vets Project Coordinator, helps Veterans submit their applications and provides a local connection to the Buffalo/Niagara Honor Flight organization. The next flight is scheduled for May 2019 and it is not too early to sign up. The Fenton History Center is especially grateful to the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation for their support of the Vets Finding Vets Program.

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