While in Albany, they are joined by other Honor Flight groups and treated to a heroes send-off, including crowds cheering and waving, a performance by a military band and speeches from dignitaries.
Signs held up by the crowd read: ”God bless WWII vets,” and “One last mission.”
Then, the veterans board a plane for their all-expense-paid trip to the memorial in Washington D.C. For many it is their one and only chance to witness the tribute that was erected in their honor.
Dozens of veterans from throughout the circulation area of Denton Publications have already taken advantage of the chance to see the memorial. A group flew out May 18 and another this past Saturday, June 8.
All say they relished the opportunity.
In a letter to the editor, WWII veteran Robert Savarie of Olmstedville said it was an incredibly emotional experience.
“(It) was an emotional experience as memories of D-Day, Anzio, Battle of the Bulge, Midway, Guadalcanal, Okinawa and so many other battlefields were brought to mind,” he said.
Other veterans like William H. Thompson of Willsboro, Alfred Kurtz of Elizabethtown and Ralph Filion of Plattsburgh all said they were honored by the gesture made by North Country Honor Flight and the outpouring of support they received from members of the community.
Family members that accompanied the veterans had similar sentiments.
Filion’s daughter, Michelle Filion-Schon, drove to Plattsburgh from Pottstown, Pa., to join her father on the flight.
“I think this could very well be the best day of both of our lives,” Filion-Schon said. “I’m so blessed to be there with him when he sees the memorial for the first time. This is the first time he’s ever been appreciated as a veteran.”
Let’s hope it won’t be his last.
Approximately 16 million men and women served in the U.S. military during WWII. By the time WWII ended in 1945, Nearly 420,000 United States soldiers lost their lives — another 670,000 were wounded.