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Buffalo Niagara Honor Flight returns after pandemic pause, some Vets thought their turn would never come

The Buffalo Niagara Honor Flight is back after being put on pause during the pandemic. It's the first full flight in nearly two years.

WASHINGTON D.C., DC — After waiting for years for their turn, a group of Veterans had the chance to go to D.C. for a special trip.

The Buffalo Niagara Honor Flight is back after being put on pause during the pandemic. It's the first full flight in nearly two years.

The flight left early on Oct. 22 and came back the same night. It was filled with Veterans who served in World War II, Vietnam War, and the Korean War.

The Veterans visit nine monuments around the capital including World War II, Vietnam War, Korean War, Air Force and Pentagon 911 memorials. 

Greg Klubek was one of the Veterans on the trip. He served in the Air Force. He is one of the volunteers who helped organize the trip and helped work out the logistics on the medical side.

Klubek has worked to have protocols in place to seat Veterans on the aircraft based on how sick they are and how far they can walk.

Even though the trip is all volunteer-based, many hours were put in, after work and during the weekends, Klubek said it's totally worth it.

"To be around our Veterans again, to work with them knowing that you shared the same uniforms, up and old dark early on a lot of days, pulling extra shifts, things that you do, things to make decisions, to leave your families, some go overseas and just to do what you do in our nation. Just to give everything back. We do it for our whole nation and our family. I was a 25-year-old veteran in the Air Force. I would do it all again instantly, I would do it again. If you asked me tomorrow, I would do it again," Klubek said.

Klubek said they are already making plans for their next honor flight.

A total of 50 Veterans went to Washington DC. There was even representation of Veterans who fought in World War I.

Veterans like 93-year-old Richie DiSarno. He is one of the seven World War II Veterans who were honored this weekend. He brought this picture of his father, Ralf, who was a Veteran of World War I.

By bring in this photo along, DiSarno represented two different generations of heroes.

Credit: WGRZ
By bring in this photo along, DiSarno represented two different generations of heroes: His father, Ralf, a WW1 vet and himself, a WW2 vet.

"It was an honor for him not me. For him," DiSarno said.

"I'm just real happy for my dad, who I think changed his birth certificate so he could go into the war at 17. He ended up at the end of the war at in the Pacific arena. He didn't seek combat so he never thought he deserved to come here, but he does," DiSarno's daughter said.

DiSarno spent two years overseas as a Marine to fight in the war.

One of the first stops made was at the World War II Memorial. There were seven Veterans on the flight that fought at that war. 

One of those was 97-year-old Joe Cosenza. He was just 18 years old when he joined the Army.

Credit: WGRZ

"It means a lot, because some of these people are friends," Cosenza said.

Cosenza went on to say he will never forget this day either. His message to the world: No more wars.

The next stop was at the Korean Memorial, where it's 91-year-old, Don Daigler's, a Korean vet, also comes for the very first time.

He was in combat for 11 months. He was drafted in the United States Army in 1952, because they needed people in Korea.

Daigler said he had a friend from New York who came to war with him in Korea. When they arrived back to the United States, a few months later, he died in a hunting accident.

"Terrible. I don't know what else to say," Daigler said.

Credit: WGRZ

Daigler went on to make friends with some firefighters back home in Western New York. He now drinks coffee with them every morning. 

"I'm a volunteer fireman, active for 67 years. They paid the $400 for my son and I. Excellent organization," Daigler said. 

Little do that know, they've also helped Daigler with his mental health too.

"Some people believe in a pet or a horse or something, but when you got four or five friends," he said.

Another stop was at the Vietnam Memorial. Vern Edwards is a Vietnam vet who served in the Army.

This is Edwards second time in Washington, but he says every time is just as special.

"For me to serve my time in the military, I had the chance to come here and see for myself about this great place here in Washington DC. I wouldn't change it for nothing in the world," Edwards said.

He's message to the world is peace and love, because he loves everybody.

After lunch at the Roosevelt Memorials, the Honor Flight took veterans to the Iwo Jima Memorial. The monument is dedicated to all Marines who have given their lives in defense of the U.S. 

Most of the veterans sat in the bus, mostly because they were tired, while Bill Gosch went to take a closer look.

Credit: WGRZ

He said he is glad he did. He's only seen the monument in pictures before that day.

Veterans also visited the Air Force Memorial and Pentagon 9/11 Memorial. They also attended the change of the Color Guards and received mail from their loved ones.

Bill Wilson, a Vietnam veteran, said he read every single letter. He said it reminded him of when he used to get mail when he was overseas. Wilson said it makes him so emotional.

They return to Buffalo Niagara Airport on the same day with a hero's welcome.

To learn more about Buffalo Niagara Honor Flight visit its Facebook page. If you are interested in making a donation, that can be done on the Buffalo Niagara Honor Flight website.

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