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Honor Flight Buffalo brings vets to D.C.

World War II veterans gathered in Blasdell Saturday (April 27) to prepare for their trip to Washington, D.C.
Fifty-two World War II veterans gathered Saturday (April 27) at the Thomas E. Tehan American Legion Post in Blasdell in preparation for their upcoming trips to see the National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Patriotic music was played, food was passed around, and every veteran in attendance received an ovation from the crowd of relatives and volunteers on-hand to celebrate the event.

The veterans, who range in age from 86 to 96-years-old, will fly for free, thanks to Honor Flight Buffalo, the organization that is making the trips possible.

Two upcoming trips are planned, with the first set of veterans going on Saturday, May 11, and the second going on Saturday, June 15. Twenty-six veterans will go on each excursion, each accompanied by a “guardian,” said co-founder and president of Honor Flight Buffalo, Lisa Wylie.

“Due to their age, we’re saying that it could be a son or daughter or grandchild that would like to go,” she said. “If that veteran doesn’t have a guardian, I have people on a waiting list that are honored to escort them.”

While the vets go for free, “guardians pay their own way, which is $375,” Wylie said.

Honor Flight Buffalo was started in 2009 by sisters Jo-Anne and Lisa Wylie and Charles Dunkle, after they served on an Honor Flight in 2008. They quickly realized that there was a need for an Honor Flight Buffalo, with more than 200 veterans in Buffalo registered with Honor Flight’s national office waiting to make the flight. As of the trip on June 15, Honor Flight Buffalo will have transported over 300 area veterans to the memorial in D.C., Wylie said.

The sisters also founded the chapter in Buffalo to honor their father, Robert P. Wylie, a staff sergeant who served during World War II.

In keeping with the familial theme of Honor Flight Buffalo, Jo-Anne and Lisa’s aunt, Dorothy Wylie Keough, calls all of the veterans. For Keough, it’s an important task, for the veterans, and herself.

“Calling them gives me a reason to get up in the morning,” she said. “It really is phenomenal.”

Around 800 World War II veterans die each day, so an emphasis is placed on getting them and veterans who are terminally ill to the memorial first. Once the World War II veterans have all been able to see the memorial, Honor Flight Buffalo will start with Korean War veterans and cycle through all other veterans who have served, Wylie said.

For 96-year-old Hamburg resident Carmen Covino, it took some time to warm up to taking the trip. Covino served in the Army in the 217th Antiaircraft Gun Battalion during World War II, seeing action in France and Belgium.

“After 11 months in combat, why would I want to see that?,” he said, talking about his initial reaction to seeing the memorial.

Now that he’s going, however, he’s looking forward to the experience.

“I’m excited,” he said.

For veteran, guardian or volunteer applications, visit www.honorflightbuffalo.org.


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