Veterans head from Ithaca to DC to visit memorials

By.¬†Kelsey O’Connor, | @ijkoconnor


Bob Nobles, a World War II veteran, and Gene Schmidt, a Marine Corps veteran, share stories on the bus trip to Washington, D.C.(Photo: TWIN TIERS HONOR FLIGHT / Provided Photo)


As a way of thanking and honoring veterans, the Twin Tiers Honor Flight is busing a group a veterans to Washington, D.C., to visit their memorials.

Forty-three people left Ithaca and headed to the capital Sunday, 16 of whom are honors veterans who have served in different military branches in World War II and the Korean War.

“It’s a nice feeling that people appreciate what people did in the war,” said Bob Nobles, a World War II veteran and Ithaca native.

The veterans, along with volunteers, are part of the Twin Tiers Honor Flight, which was founded in 2012. The trip is a chance to thank veterans for their service and let them know they are not forgotten.

The Honor Flight Network is a nonprofit organization that sends veterans to their memorials in Washington, D.C., and to the Arlington National Cemetery. Priority is placed on World War II survivors and the terminally ill.

On the bus Sunday, Nobles said he was enjoying the company of old veterans and guardians, sharing stories of their lives and service. Nobles is 94. For the past 18 years he has visited Ithaca High School and shared his stories of the war. He was a paratrooper on D-Day on June 6, 1944, and also spent nearly a year as a prisoner of war.

As of this year, the Twin Tiers Honor Flight has transported 100 veterans to Washington, D.C., to visit their memorials.

The trip is exciting and also emotional for the veterans who will get off the bus and see the memorials that correspond with the wars they served in.

Gene Schmidt, from Oneonta, is Nobles’ guardian on the trip, and is also a Marine Corps veteran who served from 1967 to 1971.

“He has incredible stories,” Schmidt said of Nobles, who shared pictures and stories on the long bus trip. “It’s an honor to be able to come with these guys.”

While Sunday, June 21, 2015, was Father’s Day, the Tompkins County Legislature also proclaimed it as Twin Tiers Honor Flight Day as a way to “express Tompkins County’s appreciation to the men and women who have served their country in a time of need.”

A Korean War veteran, Bill Choch, from Slaterville Springs, has been looking forward to the trip and said he is happy he gets the chance to see the memorials. Choch is a Navy veteran.

“I’m pretty emotional about this kind of stuff,” Choch said. “It’s going to be a great day for me to be able to experience this trip. It will be short, but I’m looking forward to it.”

Called “Flags of Our Heroes,” the Honor Flight is also honoring four deceased veterans.

They are Albert Daw, who was a sergeant in the Marine Corps and fought at Iwo Jima; Joseph Dewey, a tech five electrical specialist with the U.S. Army; David Sharefkin, a first lieutenant with the U.S. Air Force; and Gordon Wilkinson, who was a sergeant in the U.S. Army.

Their photos and biographies will be displayed at the World War II Memorial, as well as their flags.

John Fracchia, Honors Flight board member, said it is a privilege to take part in the trip. He previously went on a trip in September.

“There aren’t words to describe it, and people have told me that but until I actually took a trip with them … it’s amazing,” Fracchia said.

Follow Kelsey O’Connor on Twitter @ijkoconnor.

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