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Honor Flight Rochester resumes trips to Washington, D.C. after a more than two-year hiatus

Rochester area veterans return from a trip to Washington D.C. on April 3, 2022 as part of an Honor Flight mission.
Randy Gorbman
Rochester area veterans return from a trip to Washington D.C. on April 3, 2022 as part of an Honor Flight mission.

After a two-and-a-half-year hiatus because of the pandemic, Honor Flight Rochester is back on track, with a group of veterans returning Sunday to the Frederick Douglass Greater Rochester International Airport.

The 56 veterans, representing various branches of the military and several wars, ranging from World War II to the Vietnam War were cheered by family and friends and local honor guards at the airport, in what was the 70th mission for the local Honor Flight organization.

Honor Flight offers free trips to veterans to see a variety of memorials in Washington D.C. and that includes the Vietnam Veterans Memorial which Ray Lewis Jr. of Henrietta, who served in that war, got to visit.

“I looked up a name that was on the wall of the guy that took my place and carried my radio the day he got killed, so it was very touching,” Lewis said.

Eddie Feketi of Ogden, who served in Germany in the U.S. Army in the late 1950s was also on the weekend trip to D.C., and he remembers his service during the Cold War and what it taught him.

“I went in, in 1957, 17 years old, making 72 dollars a month for three years,” said Feketi. “It was good, I learned how to be a human being and a man, and it was good.”

Rich Stewart is president and CEO of Honor Flight Rochester. He said that besides getting to see the memorials in Washington, just being together with fellow veterans is important for those who have gone on these trips, even if they only met during Honor Flight.

“They are just like chums that have known each other forever,” said Stewart. “And I think they make a lot of relationships; they tell the stories, the stories that were never told before. The ones they didn’t share with their families.”

Stewart said that Honor Flight wants to continue these trips because of what their original goal was when they started out in 2008.

“For the same reason we started out before, it’s that long delayed thank you to veterans for their sacrifice and service so many years ago,” Stewart said. “It’s a way for the younger generation to say thank you to the older generation.”

Honor Flight plans a total of six trips this year with three in the spring and three in the fall.

Randy Gorbman is WXXI's director of news and public affairs. Randy manages the day-to-day operations of WXXI News on radio, television, and online.