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    Posted April 19, 2014 by
    Owego, New York
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Salute to troops

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    Inaugural Twin Tiers Honor Flight trip flies veterans to Washington, D.C.

    On Saturday, April 12, 2014, 52 World War II veterans and 26 Korean War veterans and their guardians boarded a flight at Binghamton Regional Airport and flew to Washington, D.C. to see the memorials and witness the changing of the guard at Arlington National Cemetery, at no cost to the veterans.
    The trip, which is the first of what Twin Tiers Honor Flight organizer DeAnna Deneen hopes is one of many in the Southern Tier of New York and Northern Tier of Pennsylvania, was funded by Jeff Gural, owner of Tioga Downs Casino in Nichols, N.Y. and CEO of American Racing and Entertainment.
    On the morning of the trip, fog conditions at Binghamton Regional Airport delayed the aircraft for about 90 minutes. During the delay, both Gural and Deneen spoke to veterans and their guardians as they waited on the plane. Gural wished the veterans a good day and said he was pleased to be able to fund the trip in their honor.
    Deneen, a veteran herself, explained that one reason she became involved with Twin Tiers Honor Flight was because, “It is a way to honor my father, who was a veteran and passed away from ALS complications.” Twin Tiers Honor Flight, part of the Honor Flight Network, is a non-profit organization created to honor America’s veterans.
    Once the Honor Flight landed at Dulles International Airport, the veterans were greeted by local military members and residents from the Washington, D.C. area. The veterans were then bused to Arlington National Cemetery. With front row seats for the WWII veterans in wheelchairs, all the veterans were able to see the changing of the guard.
    A special bus stop was made at the Marine Memorial, referred to as the “Iwo Jima” memorial. Two Iwo Jima survivors and other Marine veterans were able to walk around and view the memorial, all of whom were especially interested in seeing the bronze statue of the six men who raised the U.S. Flag.
    The next stop was the National Mall area, where veterans spent the first portion of the allotted time reflecting at the Vietnam War Memorial and Korean War Memorial. One Honor Flight veteran with vision impairment was unable to see the names printed on the Vietnam Wall, so instead he felt the etched words with his fingers. Another veteran and his guardian stopped to locate a family member’s name.
    George Carrigan, Newark Valley, N.Y. resident and Korean War veteran said, “I really enjoyed the trip. I liked the Korean War memorial, especially the etchings on the wall.” Carrigan refers to the black granite mural wall, which contains over 2,400 photographs from the Korean War. Also at the Memorial are 19 larger than life-size stainless steel statues which represent the courage of the armed forces.
    Rome, Pa. resident and Korean War veteran Ollin Evans, was pleased to be part of the inaugural Twin Tiers Honor Flight trip, and had previously stated that he wanted to honor and remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Evans accomplished that, and Saturday’s weather allowed the sun to reflect perfectly on the “Pool of Remembrance” at the memorial.
    Evans will now always remember a special moment that occurred while he was paying his respects. Two Korean women visiting the memorial stopped to thank Evans for his service. Evans’ eyes welled up with tears, so his guardian, Dennis Cox, explained, “That means more to him than anything else.”
    Other visitors touring the Memorials in Washington, D.C. took the time to thank the veterans from the Twin Tiers Honor Flight trip. Countless people stopped to shake the veterans’ hands and say thank you.
    The veterans then boarded a bus to see the World War II memorial. Often referred to as the “greatest generation,” the 52 World War II veterans on the Twin Tiers Honor Flight trip were between the ages of 88 and 95. The veterans sought out the individual granite pillars of New York and Pennsylvania, and spent time walking around the large fountain pool. Many stopped to reflect at the Freedom Wall with its message: “Here we mark the price of freedom,” and took notice of 4,048 gold stars, each representing 100 Americans who died in the war.
    Walter Mach, a WWII veteran from Vestal, N.Y., said, “This is my first trip here, and I’m so glad to be able to see it.” Charles Wharton, a WWII veteran from Ithaca, N.Y., agreed. Wharton and his guardian stopped to rest on the granite stone labeled “Southwest Pacific” where he served.
    On the plane ride home, Mary Ann Tozer, affectionately called the “Mail Lady,” handed out bags of mail to all the veterans, a modern-day “mail call.” Thank you cards and letters came from groups and individuals all throughout New York and Pennsylvania, including school students from Northeast Bradford Elementary in Rome, Pa. and Owego Elementary School in Owego, N.Y.
    Despite being late upon their return, veterans were greeted upon landing at Binghamton Regional Airport by hundreds of people, some of whom had been waiting nearly four hours. Family members, local Boy Scout and Girl Scouts, the B.C. Celtic Pipes and Drums, and several military groups, including VFW Post 1371 Honor Guard from Owego, N.Y. were there to give the veterans a warm welcome home.
    Participants waved flags, and patriotic music played as each veteran entered the hangar, announced by their guardian, and then greeted with a hand shake from Broome County Executive Debbie Preston. Once everyone was gathered in the hangar, Preston spoke briefly to the crowd. To the veterans directly, she stated, “Thanks to all of you. You have made a wonderful difference in our lives today.”

    Honor4 - Jeff Gural, Tioga Downs Casino and American Racing and Entertainment CEO, chats with veterans on the Twin Tiers Honor Flight trip during a fog delay at Binghamton Regional Airport.
    Honor6 - Twin Tiers Honor Flight veterans were greeted at Dulles airport by military families and local residents. Pictured is WWII veteran Carol Lupo being welcomed by Washington, D.C. area Girl Scouts.
    Honor9 - Veterans from the Twins Tiers Honor Flight trip had front row seats to witness the "Changing of the Guard" at Arlington National Cemetery.
    Honor15 - Twin Tiers Honor Flight trip veterans stroll along the start of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C.

    Honor16 - On Saturday, April 12, a Twin Tiers Honor Flight trip veteran and his guardian stop for a moment at the Vietnam Memorial to search for the name of a family member.
    Honor23 - A group of Twin Tiers Honor Flight trip veterans pose with Jeff Gural prior to departure back to Binghamton, N.Y. at Dulles International Airport in Washington, D.C. on Saturday, April 12.
    Honor23 - A group of Twin Tiers Honor Flight trip veterans pose with Jeff Gural prior to departure back to Binghamton, N.Y. at Dulles International Airport in Washington, D.C. on Saturday, April 12.
    Honor29 - Vestal resident and World War II veteran Walter Mach, poses on Saturday, April 12, at the "China-Burma-India" section of the WWII Memorial where he served.
    Honor33 - After an exciting and emotional day, tired veterans were greeted by area Girl Scouts who handed out cookies at Binghamton Regional airport on Saturday, April 12.
    Honor34 - Newark Valley resident and WWII veteran Clark Smith, stands near the Marine Memorial (Iwo Jima Memorial) on Saturday, April 12.
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