Anyone who wishes to thank a veteran from the “Greatest Generation” is welcome to gather in the terminal of Buffalo Niagara International Airport on Saturday for ceremonies marking the departure and return home of 26 World War II veterans on an official “Honor Flight” to Washington.
Honor Flight Buffalo, the only official local hub of the national Honor Flight Network, will make its 13th trip Saturday to take veterans to see the National World War II Memorial, as well as other monuments and memorials in the nation’s capital. Each veteran, who flies for free thanks to private fundraising efforts on behalf of Honor Flight Buffalo, is accompanied by a guardian who pays his or her own way.
The veterans who will fly Saturday range in age from 85 to 96. Ten are Army veterans, five Marines, five served in the Army Air Forces, four in the Navy, one in the Coast Guard and one in the Seabees. They served at the Normandy invasion on D-Day, Pearl Harbor, Iwo Jima, France, Germany, Okinawa, the Philippines, China and the Pacific. Several received Purple Hearts.
The send-off, which will be held at 5:15 a.m. on the upper level of the airport terminal, will include a flag-folding ceremony. A Girl Scout troop is expected to attend that ceremony.
The Honor Flight will return home at approximately 10:30 p.m. The welcome-home ceremony will include an honor guard of cadets from the Western New York Maritime Charter School, an honor guard of Patriot Guard Riders, and other groups, families and individuals. Many of those who attend both ceremonies bring their own flags or homemade signs..
Honor Flight Buffalo was founded by Charles D. Dunkle and sisters Lisa A. Wylie and Jo-Anne Wylie in memory of the Wylies’ father, who died without ever seeing the National World War II Memorial.
As a 501(c)3 group, it is not taxpayer-funded. Its website is www.honorflightbuffalo.org.