Just days before the 15th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks, Hudson Valley Honor Flight, a non-profit honoring veterans with a free trip to Washington D.C. to visit their respective war memorials, flew 88 Hudson Valley men and women to the nation’s capital.
The organization embarked on its 13th mission, labeling it Flight 1,000 in honor of the 1,000th veteran sent on the flights thus far. While the name of the veteran was not released out of fairness to the others on board, all 52 Korean War veterans and 36 World War II veterans were celebrated for their bravery and selflessness.
Buses of veterans arrived at Stewart Airport on the morning of the event and were met by crowds of people participating in the sendoff ceremony. Another large group of supporters were waiting at the terminal to greet the veterans when they landed in Washington D.C. Korean War veteran Don Bruyn, 82, of Pine Bush, was overwhelmed by the audience waiting for him and the others upon their arrival.
“I must have shook 100 hands at the airport, because the people waiting for us there wanted to do that, they wanted to thank us for our service.”
For the first time, Bruyn — who served for two years in the Korean War — was able to see the Korean War Veterans Memorial. “I thought it beautifully represented the harshness and unease of the war,” says Bruyn. He and the other veterans flown to the capital that day also made stops at the National World War II Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and Arlington National Cemetery.
The excitement and emotion of the day continued even after the veterans boarded the plane back to New York. “To the surprise of us all, at 31,000 feet, the attendants announced mail call,” shares Bruyn. “We all received a large envelope with letters and cards from family members and people we didn’t know writing to thank us for our dedication.”
After a long day, the veterans returned to their families with wide smiles and new memories that will forever be written in their history.
Veteran of the Year
Nov 5, 10 a.m.; Greene County Supreme Court, 320 Main St, Catskill
Luncheon for War Vets
Nov 8, noon. Free for veterans.
Woodstock Harley Davidson, 949 Rt 28, Kingston
Call 845.340.3190 to reserve a spot
Veterans Day Commemoration
Nov 11, 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. Free. St. Paul’s Church, 897 S. Columbus Ave, Mt. Vernon