WASHINGTON, D.C. --- We are celebrating Western New York this morning by honoring our local veterans. The Buffalo Niagara Honor Flight group gives veterans who served in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam the opportunity to visit Washington, D.C. and spend time at the various memorials there.
2 On Your Side’s Kelly Dudzik and photojournalist Ben Read went on the Honor Flight last month.
This morning, they're introducing us to a Korean War veteran who is also a Native American leader.
Leo Henry is a U.S. Marine who was thrilled to be on the latest Honor Flight.
“I was surprised I got the opportunity. So I took it when I got it," said Henry.
Henry served in Korea from 1953 to 1954 at the end of the war. Raised on a reservation, the transition to life in the military wasn't always easy.
"In the service, I was treated differently when they found out I was Native American," he says.
Now, Henry serves as the leader of the Tuscarora Nation.
"I've always heard about this Memorial, and I've come down to Washington quite a few times on behalf of the Tuscarora Nation, but I never got to see any of the memorials and it was great to see all of them," said Henry of the trip.
Henry's older brother went to Korea first, and on this trip, Henry honored him by leaving his photograph at the Korean Memorial.
"My brother went over with the first group of Marines that ever went into Korea, and he was trapped up at the Chosin Reservoir, and he fought back, and then he came home and he was extended a year and when I went to boot camp, he was a drill instructor. So I got to see him a lot there," says Henry.
Henry, and the 40 or so other veterans on this Honor Flight, spent the day visiting Washington's war memorials. They met World War II veteran and former Senator Bob Dole, and they marveled at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and U.S. Air Force Memorial all after celebrating with a grand send-off in Buffalo.
"That was great at the airport. Everything has been great. They showed great respect for us veterans. And it's great to know there are people, the average person appreciates what we've done," said Henry.
Henry wants to encourage other veterans to take an Honor Flight. It's a long day, but well worth it.
"I would say any of the Marine Corps veterans, or any veterans in the Korean War that we still have on our Indian reservation, see if you can't get to come," he says.