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Local veterans go on Honor Flight

Submitted Photo Eight local veterans went on Buffalo Niagara Honor Flight No. 9 to Washington, D.C. on Oct. 13.

Eight local veterans recently met and embarked on an unforgettable trip to Washington, D.C., as part of Buffalo Niagara Honor Flight No. 9, which took place on Sunday, Oct. 13.

The journey for these Veterans began on Saturday, Oct. 12, when five of the eight came to the Fenton History Center with their guardians as the first leg of their journey. Of these veterans, Falconer residents Ed Yager, Korea, and his son Eric, were happy to meet the four Warren County veterans and their guardians. This group was headed by Misty Weber, Administrator of Warren County Virtual Academy, and were part of a Veteran/student program through the Academy. World War II veterans Paul Hannold, Kenneth Sorenson, Frank Tittio, and Korea Veteran Emil Bundy, were joined by Dorothy Hannold (an employee of the War Department during World War II), Diane Swartz (to provide medical assistance if needed), Scheron Sorenson, and Douglas Temple. Joe McClellan would meet his veteran, Ted Harbridge of Niagara Falls, at the meet and greet.

Five previous Honor Flight veterans — Angelo Bonta, Gene Coan, Art Hodges, Jack Hayward, and Omer Post — knew exactly what this trip would mean to them, and stopped by to send them off with well wishes and handshakes all around. They were joined by Chautauqua Co. Legion Commander James Lemanski, as he thanked them for their service and wished them well.

The Chautauqua County Veterans Services Van picked them all up at the Fenton Mansion, and headed for their meet and greet – a picnic at the Made in America Store in Elma, where they would meet the rest of the veterans, guardians and Honor Flight volunteers traveling on Honor Flight No. 9. There, they were joined by the other three veterans and guardians — World War II veteran Esterino Rigazzi and David Jeannerat of Erie, PA; Korea veteran Richard Watt and Mark Peters of Cassadaga; and Stan Kawski (Korea era) and Commander Henry Link (Vietnam era), both of Brocton Legion Post # 434.

After a picnic lunch, musical entertainment, and lots of fun mixed with what they should expect on Sunday, they were transported to the Aloft Hotel to get a good night’s sleep before the big day. Leaving very early Sunday morning to arrive at the airport, the happy group was overwhelmed and amazed at the outpouring of patriotism and honor bestowed upon them as they entered the airport and visited the historic war memorials, Arlington National Cemetery and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

At the end of the day, they enjoyed a special dinner and much more entertainment and fun before heading for the Baltimore Airport for the return flight to Buffalo. Some veterans and guardians ventured home on their own, leaving Buffalo around 11:30 p.m., but four veterans and guardians stayed another night to rest up for the morning ride back to Jamestown in the Veterans Services Van.

While all veterans agree that an Honor Flight is the most incredible experience of all, the eight local veterans added some specific memories they will cherish forever.

For Emil Bundy (Korea), it was the large crowds at the airport thanking the Vets for their service.

World War II vet Paul Hannold was “amazed, excited, flabbergasted,” and had never shaken hands with so many people all in one day.

Korea era vet Stan Kawski said the trip was a thousand percent more than what he expected.

World War II veteran Esterino Rigazzi exclaimed “I’ll be darned” many times, was most touched by the Audie Murphy monument at Arlington Cemetery and the “Welcome” at the airports.

World War II veteran Kenneth Sorenson was so grateful for the Honor Flight experience and was most touched by the World War II Memorial and Arlington National Cemetery.

World War II veteran Frank Tittio said this experience was “all new, never done before” and was amazed by how friendly everyone was.

Korea veteran Richard Watt declared “the reception at the airport was the nicest thing that has ever happened to me,” and he was so impressed at seeing all of the War Memorials.

Korea veteran Ed Yager said “I don’t like to use the word ‘Awesome’, but it was! The airport crowd spontaneously sang the National Anthem, it was overwhelming.”

Barb Cessna, project coordinator for Fenton History Center’s Vets Finding Vets program helps facilitate the application process in order for Veterans to participate in an Honor Flight through Buffalo Niagara Honor Flight.

Veterans wishing to make the trip themselves can contact Fenton History Center at 664-6256 and ask for Barb. The next flight is coming up in May, and it is not to early to apply.

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