On the weekend of September 21 and 22, 2019, 50 veterans from the Twin Tiers of New York and Pennsylvania were treated to a heroes trip to Washington, D.C. The Twin Tiers Honor Flight took care of their transportation, lodging, and meals. These veterans were given a police escort through the streets of Binghamton to the Pennsylvania state line but not before a wonderful sendoff where Senator Fred Akshar and Broome County Executive Jason Garnar shared some beautiful words of appreciation with them.

 

 

On the first day of our trip, our veterans were able to spend time reflecting at the Vietnam Wall, Korean War Memorial, Lincoln Memorial and National Mall, and also at Arlington National Cemetary where they were not only able to see a changing of the guard, but where four of our veterans were able to participate in a very special wreath-laying ceremony.

As his eyes swept over the rows and rows of graves in Arlington National Cemetery, one veteran commented, with a tear falling down his cheek, that he isn't sure that this generation fully comprehends the sacrifices made so that they can enjoy the things and the freedoms that they have. He cried as he talked about his fallen comrades, men he grew up playing on the neighborhood streets with who were drafted, fought, and lost their lives.

Mr. Robert Carey, a veteran who accompanied us on our Honor Flight trip, was moved beyond words when he stumbled on photographs of his three times great-grandfather and his two times great-grandfather at the Navy Museum.

Ms. Cara Tilton is a Marine veteran and had the opportunity to visit her memorial, Iwo Jima, for the first time and her excitement was simply infectious.

On the second day of our trip, our veterans were able to see a bit of Downtown Washington, D.C., visit the World War II Memorial, walk around the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, and see both the Navy and Air Force Memorials.

One of the moments that our veterans enjoyed the most was when we surprised them with mail call, handing out letters to them from home. The letters came from family, friends, and even strangers, all of them thanking the veteran for their service and dedication to the United States of America.

The weekend was an incredible one, but the icing on the cake was the warm welcome that our veterans received upon return to the American Legion on Robinson Street in Binghamton. As he hugged me with tears streaming down his face, one Vietnam veteran told me that the homecoming he received that night was the single best day of his life.

According to the National World War II Memorial, within the next three years, more than a million veterans will no longer be with us and many of those veterans will never have the chance to visit their memorials in Washington DC. to grieve, to find closure, to pay their respects to fallen comrades, and to receive the thanks and the respect that they themselves deserve. However, you and I can do our part in our little corner of the world by sending our local veterans to their memorials through the Twin Tiers Honor Flight. Every dollar counts when it comes to making these trips possible, so if you've got a buck or two to spare, please consider making a donation. And, if you're a veteran or know one who would be interested in going on a future Twin Tiers Honor Flight trip, please fill out an application here

I'll leave you with this. In the photo below, there are 14 gentlemen, all veterans. All 14 of these men grew up in Binghamton. They all graduated from Binghamton High School and they all joined the Navy. 50 years later, they were all able to visit their Navy Memorial together. If that doesn't grab at your heart, I don't know what will.

Traci Taylor

[via National World War II Memorial/Twin Tiers Honor Flight]