On October 18, 2014, Hudson Valley Honor Flight (HVHF) flew Mission #6. Since 2012, this local hub of the National Honor Flight Network, a nonprofit that transports veterans to visit the national memorials to the wars they served in, has flown hundreds of World War II veterans—all expenses paid—from Stewart International Airport in New Windsor, New York to Washington, DC, to visit the National WWII Memorial and Arlington National Cemetery.
But on the brisk morning of the 18th, 75 veterans (each accompanied by an escort) packed into three tour buses to head to Westchester County Airport for HVHF’s first flight out of the county. Led by a motorcycle escort, the buses made their way from Westchester Community College to the airport, passing several fire departments, whose firefighters stood saluting as the vehicles passed under American flags draped from steepled truck ladders. As the buses rolled into the airport, they were met by a group of bagpipers, who led the buses through a line of saluting West Point cadets, finally stopping at a hangar where hundreds of friends, family members, and local politicians greeted them with cheers. Aaron Kornfeld, a veteran from Hartsdale, commented, “I never felt so special in my life.”
And that was only the beginning of a long day of honoring the vets, who we accompanied as they visited the WWII Monument, Arlington National Cemetery, and the US Marine Corps War Memorial, before returning to Westchester the same night.
More than 550 American World War II veterans die every day. During a send-off ceremony in a hangar at Westchester County Airport, HVHF honored two such veterans (called Hudson Valley Heroes by the organization). Army veterans Tech. Sgt. Stephen M. Moravick (left) and 1st Lt. William Seefeld (right) both passed after signing up to take part in Mission #6. Here, current West Point cadets hold up Moravick’s and Seefeld’s portraits before playing “Taps” to honor them.
All 75 WWII veterans of Mission #6 in front of the National WWII Monument in Washington, DC
Before taking off to Washington, DC, 86-year-old Art Taylor (left), a WWII veteran who resides in Hartsdale, greets Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino during the send-off ceremony at Westchester County Airport in White Plains.
Volunteer escort Fred Abatangelo pushes a vet up a ramp and onto a waiting charter flight at Westchester County Airport.
Veteran James Molloy high fives active duty military personnel at Reagan National Airport in Arlington, Virginia.
Not only did active military members welcome the veterans to Reagan National Airport, but so did members of the West Point Alumni Glee Club. While the Glee Club sang, people waiting in the same terminal lined up at the gate to join in welcoming the veterans and to thank them for their service.
Army veteran Adam Krainak, the 93-year-old former chief of police of Spring Valley, New York, holds up a picture of himself (far left in photo) and his brothers, Joe and George, while being interviewed by a Journal News reporter who accompanied the flight. Adam and Joe both served in the Pacific during the war, and all three brothers lived into their 90s.
Valhalla resident Ronald Rose, an 88-year-old Navy veteran of both WWII (during which he served in the South Pacific) and the Korean War, reflects in front of the Freedom Wall of the World War II Memorial. The wall holds 4,048 gold stars, each representing 100 American personnel who died in the war or remain missing. The actual 405,399 total is second only to the 620,000 Americans killed in the line of duty during the Civil War.
Nunzio Frankie (seated, in red) is a Marine veteran from Yonkers. Frankie was set to serve in Peleliu during the war, but was seriously injured when a truck blew up during training in Tennessee. Pictured here, he gazes at an active-duty Marine.
Former Senator Bob Dole (R-Kansas, left) speaks with WWII veteran Henry Sandler of Ardsley at the WWII Memorial. Dole, a WWII veteran who was injured in battle, was a big proponent in helping to get the memorial built. He can sometimes be found sitting outside the memorial to greet fellow veterans.
Armando “Chick” Gallala, a Pearl Harbor survivor from Sleepy Hollow, salutes Audie Murphy’s gravesite in Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia. Murphy was one of the most decorated American combat soldiers of WWII, having received every military combat award for valor available from the Army, as well as French and Belgian awards for heroism. Through tears, Gallala commented, “I’m no hero—these are the true heroes.”
For more information about Hudson Valley Honor Flight, visit www.hvhonorflight.com