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Sherman Says: Support Honor Flight Buffalo in its continuing mission

SPRINGVILLE — If you have ever been on a flight to or from Washington, D.C. that is half full of men in their 80s or 90s, you know the feeling.

If you have ever been at the airport when one of these flights arrives or departs, you know the feeling.

On May 11, Honor Flight Buffalo will commence its fourth year of flying World War II veterans. A second flight will be conducted, on June 15. This not-for-profit charity organization flies veterans to see their memorial in the nation’s capital and is staffed solely by volunteers.

“The World War II memorial was dedicated in 2004, some 59 years after the war ended,” said Honor Flight Buffalo President Lisa Wylie. “Our mission is to fly America’s veterans, free of charge, to visit memorials dedicated to honor their sacrifices. This one day trip is a way of saying thank you, to all those who served.”

The cost to send one veteran on this trip is $375. Honor Flight Buffalo has successfully escorted 265 World War II veterans on 10 such excursions, since its inception.

These flights cost slightly more than $1, per day. Instead of purchasing a coffee on your way to work, you could instead fully fund one of these flights, before the Thanksgiving holiday.

Honor Flight Buffalo was co-founded by Charles Dunkle and sisters Lisa and Jo-Anne Wylie. These individuals realized that more than 200 World War II veterans in the Buffalo area were on a waiting list, ready to make this journey.

In 2009, the Buffalo branch became an official hub of the Honor Flight Network. It was formed in honor of the Wylie sisters’ late father, Staff Sgt. Robert P. Wylie, who was a World War II veteran and who had a role in building the memorial. Unfortunately, he never had the privilege of seeing it.

The organization gives highest priority to America’s senior veterans. Local organizers said current statistics indicate we are losing these World War II veterans at a rate of 850, per day. The organization’s next priority will be Korean War veterans and then, Vietnam veterans.

Sadly, very few World War II veterans lived to see their tribute in the national mall.

While approved veterans fly at no charge, escorts who assist them are asked to pay their own way. They may ask to be assigned to a specific veteran, so the family aspect can be the trip of a lifetime.

My first visit to the World War II memorial came, a few weeks prior to its official dedication. The fountains were not on, but dozens of people strolled inside the memorial’s circle, taking a look.

Massive stone columns ring the grounds, one devoted to each state and territory in our country that was in existence, during the war. While many veterans and their family members are drawn to these elements, more find solace in smaller pools, where the edges are engraved with the names of the most significant battles from the European and Pacific theaters.

The Battle of the Bulge is meaningful to me. Additional venues were more than places on a map, as well, as my late father served in both theaters. This was reality, preserved in the permanence of sacred stone.

To the west stands the Lincoln Memorial, with the 16th president’s gazing into a remembrance of the worst conflict of the 20th century. A few steps to the east stands the soaring Washington Monument, a tribute to the father of our country.

How could we have waited so long, to pay tribute to hundreds of thousands of Americans who gave up their futures to protect our freedom? The least we can do is recognize those who speak so seldom of their service.

To access veteran or volunteer applications, visit or contact Honor Flight Buffalo at P.O. Box 338, Buffalo, NY 14223. The office telephone number is 254-4376.

David Sherman is the managing editor of Bee Group Newspapers and a columnist for the Weekly Independent Newspapers of Western New York, a group of community newspapers with a combined circulation of 286,500 readers. Opinions expressed here are those of the author. He can be reached at

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