Honor Flight moving tribute to WWII Veterans

By Teresa Walsh

The Hudson Valley Honor Flight took off from from Westchester County Airport, taking WWII veterans to Washington D.C. to view war memorials, which must have seemed like the trip of a lifetime for those onboard.

Those who have been called the Greatest Generation never had any fanfare or fuss made over them when their tours of duty ended.  A simple discharge, issuing of papers and being sent home again was what the end of their WWII experience entailed.

The inaugural flight from the county airport left at 9 a.m. on Oct.18, but the day began much earlier at Westchester Community College with a 6:30 a.m. pep rally by a crowd of by well-wishers gathered to send the three busloads of travelers on their way.

A police escort whisked the buses through Valhalla, past the Kenisco Dam, down

Route 22, through White Plains, Silver Lake and onto the airport grounds. People had gathered all along the route, cheering the veterans on. At the airport, the veterans were greeted by West Point cadets and still more well-wishers.

After the 90-minute trip to Reagan National Airport, they alighted to more applause and moved on to The WWII Memorial.  Former Senator, and WWII veteran, Bob Dole spoke with many of the veterans at the site.

“I am very appreciative of Bob Dole,” said Peter Sasko, WCC security guard and Vietnam Vet, who went on the trip as a guardian.

After the WWII Memorial, the vets drove to Arlington National Cemetery to view the changing of the guard at the Tomb of The Unknown Soldier. Then it was on to the Iwo Jima Memorial.

Then the veterans were treated to a dinner at Doubletrees in Washington before boarding the plane bound for Westchester. A band played 1940s music during the dinner. Back in Westchester, the buses returned to WCC where a welcome home reception was held.

The HVHF, part of a national volunteer organization, raises money to solely honor America’s veterans for all their sacrifices and to visit and reflect at their memorials. Guardians or escorts accompany the veterans on the trip to help them get around.

The flights are free to veterans. Priority is given to WWII veterans and ones who are terminally ill. The spring 2014 HVHF already has a waitlist.

“The day was beyond belief, fantastic, phenomenal. I went without a glitch,” Sasko said.