Odell Accompanies Army Vet on Honor Flight

October 21, 2014

Upon his return, Paolantonio told Emily, his wife of 62 years, that the outing was “the best day of his life.”

 

It’s not unusual for government leaders to experience last minute changes to their weekend schedules and that was true when County Executive MaryEllen Odell learned in early October that she had been selected to be a guardian on the Saturday, Oct. 18th Hudson Valley Honor Flight (HVHF). It would be Odell’s third flight to Washington, D.C. as an escort for one of the remaining heroes of the Greatest Generation. On this trip, Odell served as a guardian for 92-year-old Army veteran Victor Paolantonio from Ossining, NY.

 

“Spending the day with Victor was an absolute delight,” said Odell. “He was so thrilled to be going on this trip. These elderly veterans certainly deserve the attention and adulation they get on an Honor Flight.”

 

Upon his return, Paolantonio told Emily, his wife of 62 years, that the outing was “the best day of his life.”

 

Paolantonio, who since Labor Day weekend has resided at the New York State Veterans Home at Montrose, told Emily how thrilling it was to have a motorcade accompany the buses of veterans and to have people lining the streets waving flags as they passed by.

 

“Vic just breaks down into a flood of tears whenever he talks about it,” she said.

 

Emily said talking about his experiences as an Army Corporal in WWII was something Paolantonio never did, not even with her. It wasn’t until his granddaughter approached him about a school homework assignment that he finally began to discuss the subject.

 

“I learned about his war experiences as he talked with our granddaughter,” she said.

 

HVHF, a non-profit organization created to honor America’s World War II veterans for all their sacrifices, is a chapter of the National Honor Flight Network and serves veterans in Orange, Ulster, Westchester, Rockland, Putnam, Dutchess, Sullivan and Pike Counties.

 

 

 

“We transport our World War II heroes whose average age is 90-plus years old, to Washington, D.C. at no cost to them so they can visit and reflect at the WWII Memorial and at the Iwo Jima Memorial,” said HVHF Executive Director Becky Boone. “For what they sacrificed and for all they have given to us, the Honor Flights are a small token of our appreciation.”

 

HVHF takes off several times a year out of Stewart International Airport and Westchester County Airport. Odell and Paolantonio met at Westchester Community College at 6:30 a.m. last Saturday before boarding buses that took them to Landmark Aviation West hangar at Westchester County Airport for a Send-Off Ceremony. They arrived at Reagan National Airport and departed for the WWII Memorial which is located at the east end of the Reflecting Pool between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument. 

 

Afterwards, the group was bussed to Arlington National Cemetery where they watched the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Then it was on to the Iwo Jima Memorial.

 

Following a dinner at the Doubletree Crystal City, the veterans and their escorts returned to Reagan Airport. They flew back to New York on a US Airways Charter Flight arriving at Westchester County Airport around 8:30. Their long day concluded with a Welcome Home Reception at Westchester Community College. 

 

In the future, Honor Flight Network hopes to expand to include Korean War and Vietnam War veterans.

 

 

Former Sen. Bob Dole, Yorktown Councilman Dr. Terrence Murphy, and County Executive MaryEllen Odell gather around Army Veteran Victor Paolantonio in Washington, D. C.