Second Major Honor Flight Launched

Second Honor Flight Rochester, NY

Rochester, NY. Thanks to donations from the Rochester community, a second major Honor Flight is scheduled to fly from Rochester on Father’s Day weekend, June 20 and 21. The flight takes local WWII Veterans to see the Memorial built in their honor in Washington D.C. The newest addition to the National Mall was completed in 2004. The youngest of the men and women who served in WWII are now in their 80’s. Very few have visited the Memorial and seen it firsthand. Now another sixty Rochester area Veterans have received phone calls to do just that. The local organization behind the flight formed 10 months ago as part of a 4-year old national movement to honor the Greatest Generation while time still allows.

Those 60 Veterans have been waiting for this call since May 2008 when hundreds of applications began flooding into the newly formed “hub” of the national Honor Flight Network. “I’m the happiest guy in the world… I’m shaking like a leaf I’m so excited,” said Stan Rychlicki of Caledonia when he got the word he was going in June. “I’ll be 90 years old this year and I’ve been helping local kids for 40 years, repairing bicycles and helping when I can. Now they’re raising money for my flight and making me feel like a hero.”

Second Honor Flight Rochester, NYLeaders of Honor Flight Rochester indicated that it is efforts like those of the high schoolers in Caledonia, who raised more than $1,500 with a badminton tournament in Mr. Rychlicki’s honor, that have been the backbone of the more than $65,000 raised in 10 months of operation. “We’ve had some wonderful surprises,” said Jeff Gould who oversees Honor Flight Donor Relations locally. “A VFW Post sent us a $4,000 check out of the blue, with promises to do even more. A Lions club held a fund-raising evening and then invited us to a wonderful ceremony to receive an $1,800 check. A middle school raises $800. One couple just sent us an envelope with a note saying they wanted to sponsor 4 veterans. No names. Just an open gift.”

But it’s the smaller gifts that really touch the heart, according to Gould. “We get a check from a 3rd grade class for $127.92, straight from their piggy banks.” He cited an $80 check from four families, 2 generations, on the 15th anniversary of losing their husband and father, a man who instilled in his children the moral character that has defined their lives. Says Gould, “That gift can’t be measured in dollars.”

Second Honor Flight Rochester, NY“We just got a note from a man who very well could be unemployed. It said ‘Please accept this donation to send WWII Vets on the Honor Flight. The Freedom we enjoy today is because of them. We salute all of them.’ Inside the envelope was a check for $10. Now every Veteran going on every one of our flights owns a piece of that ten,” said Gould.

In real money it costs Honor Flight $450 to send each Veteran on an Honor Flight. And none of that money has been wasted. When the June 20 flight lifts off, Rochester will have sent 125 Veterans on what Woody DiAntonio describes as “the greatest experience of my life.” Mr. DiAntonio, who landed on the Normandy beaches in 1944, was a priority member of the very first Rochester Honor Flight last fall due to health concerns. As he stepped off the plane last October he described how he and his small band of brothers had “been resurrected” by their time together on the Honor Flight. The flight remains vivid 8 months later.

Second Honor Flight Rochester, NYHis Honor Flight excursion to Washington, included stops at Arlington Cemetery, Iwo Jima, the Korea, Viet Nam and Lincoln Memorials, and of course the WWII Memorial — with its water, granite and 4,000 gold stars for those Americans (times 100) who never returned home. But even after 8 months, DiAntonio who took time out at the recent D-Day remembrance at Charlotte Beach to reflect on his flight last fall, talked of the people who celebrated the veterans every step of their trip. “It was the strangers who approached us just to say thanks, and the crowds in the Baltimore airport who spontaneously cheered along our concourse, or the youngster who gave you a high five. Those are the special moments I carry with me forever.”

Second Honor Flight Rochester, NYSixty more Veterans will feel the thrill of public honor on June 20, accompanied by 45 guardians – nurses, younger vets, sons and daughters, all there to help with wheel chairs, watch for steps and share in once-in-a-lifetime emotions. And the next day they return home to be welcomed with a reception they never received in 1945. They will all tell you, at the end of the war they stepped off buses or trains in their hometowns and then quietly, and humbly, went to work, raising families and building the country we have today.

Second Honor Flight Rochester, NYThe public is invited to join their Airport Homecoming on Sunday June 21 at 2pm on the A Concourse at the Greater Rochester International Airport, for a celebration six decades overdue.

The public is also invited to donate generously. More than 300 Veterans will still be waiting in line after the June flight, each eager to find schools, and churches, Posts and clubs willing to sponsor seats on trips not yet funded. And perhaps find the lucky couple who can afford to give more.

Their ages range from 82 to 98. They feel blessed to have led full lives, to be alive today, to know an Honor Flight is in their future. But there is so little time. Take a moment… today — Thank a Veteran.

Mission 76 (58 vets)
April 15-16
Mission 77 (58 vets)
May 13-14
Mission 78 (61 vets)
June 17-18
Unfortunately veterans cannot choose what flight they will travel on due to medical and logistic issues associated with the flight process. We also encourage veterans from the Syracuse and Buffalo area's to visit and register with their local Honor Flight hubs before registering with Rochester Honor Flight.