Odell to Accompany Carmel Vet on Honor Flight to D.C.
Carmel’s Antoci Spent 5 Months as a POW
Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell will accompany 87-year old Carmel resident Mario Antoci, an Army veteran, as they join approximately 90 other veterans and their guardians on a HV (Hudson Valley) Honor Flight to Washington, DC to visit the World War II Memorial on Saturday, April 20.
The HV Honor Flight is a local chapter of the National Honor Flight Network and encompasses veterans in Putnam, Orange, Ulster, Westchester, Rockland and Dutchess counties.
“I’ve known Mario for years,” said Odell, “but I didn’t know about the Honor Flight Network. When Andy Komonchak, the Executive Director of the Purple Heart Hall of Honor, told me there might be a seat open for another veteran and guardian on the April 20th flight, I knew I wanted to get one of our few remaining WWII veterans get on that plane.”
The Honor Flight Network program was conceived by Earl Morse, a physician assistant in the Air Force. After completing 27 years in the service, Morse retired in 1998 knowing he wanted to do something more for the veterans he had cared for during his career. In May of 2004, while Morse was working at a small veteran’s clinic in Springfield, Ohio, the World War II Memorial was unveiled in Washington, DC. For many of the veterans in his care, visiting the WWII Memorial was their greatest and, oftentimes, their last wish. Unfortunately, few could afford to make the trip.
As a result, Morse founded National Honor Flight to raise funds to allow any veteran who wished to make the one-day, all-expense paid trip to Washington, D.C. to view the monument erected in their honor. Guardians wishing to accompany a veteran pay their own way at a cost of approximately $400.
Today, the Honor Flight Network has more than 70 chapters throughout the United States and 2013 marks their ninth year transporting more than 81,000 WWII, Korean and Vietnam veterans to the nation’s capitol. It is the second flight that the HV Honor Flight Chapter has sponsored. The April 20 US Airways Charter flight is scheduled to depart Stewart Airport at 10 a.m.
Antoci, who moved to Brewster from the Bronx in 1965, said he enlisted without his parents’ knowledge in 1944. “My older brother Sandy was already in the service, and I knew I wanted to go in, too. So I pushed the draft board a bit and told them I was 18.”
Antoci served from 1944 until 1946 as a member of the 7th Army’s 63rd Infantry Division. His last five months were spent as a prisoner of war in Germany. Antoci has written a journal for his children and grandchildren about his wartime experiences.
The commotion about his upcoming trip is a bit overwhelming for Antoci who said there were six million other people who served in WWII.
“I’m not the only guy,” he said.
But with approximately 1,000 WWII veterans, most of whom are over the age of 85, passing on each day, time is running out. Antoci acknowledged that point as he described his weekly therapy visits to the VA Medical Center in Montrose with his fellow Carmel resident and WWII veteran, Charlie Johansen.
“There used to be 14 of us in the group, but we’re down to about six members now,” Antoci said.
Komonchak said the veterans and guardians will meet early – around 7 a.m. – at the Hawkins Drive Shoprite in Montgomery, NY (see itinerary below) before getting on Stewart-bound buses which will be accompanied by a police escort. At the airport, there will be a presentation held in the baggage claim area before boarding. The group is expected to arrive in Washington, D.C. at 11:15 a.m.
The HV Honor Flight Chapter will sponsor two trips per year.
“The best way to start is to go to your VFW and tell them you are interested in either going or being a guardian,” said Komonchak. “If you go on www.HVHonorFlight.com, there are applications you can download. You have to fill all that out.”
Sometimes, he said, the VFW will sponsor a guardian.
HV Honor Flight Itinerary Saturday, April 20th
- 7:00 AM Rally up at: ShopRite in Montgomery (Exit 5 off Rt. 84) 99 Hawkins Drive Montgomery, NY 12549
- 7:30 AM Checked-in with bus leaders and on-board busses
- 7:45 AM Convoy leaves for Stewart International Airport
- 8:00 AM Arrive Stewart International Airport for reception
- 9:00 AM Proceed to security check point & board plane
- 10:00 AM Depart Stewart on US Airways Charter Flight
- 11:15 AM Arrive Reagan National Airport
- 12:00 PM Depart for WWII Memorial, have lunch en-route
- 1:00 PM Arrive in Washington D.C. at the WWII Memorial
- 2:30 PM Depart for Arlington National Cemetery
- 3:30 PM Changing of the Guard
- 4:00 PM Depart for dinner at the Double Tree Crystal City Hotel
- 5:45 PM Depart for Reagan National Airport
- 6:00 PM Arrive Reagan National Airport and clear security
- 7:15 PM Depart Reagan National Airport on US Airways Charter Flight
- 8:30 PM Arrive at Stewart & board bus back to ShopRite in Montgomery