'A very emotional time'

World War II veterans showered with love and gratitude during Honor Flight to D.C. memorial


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  • Photo courtesy Steve Neuhaus At the memorial: Chester Supervisor Steve Neuhaus, center, with Bill Sabella of Chester, left, and Vinnie Marino of Monroe, right.




  • Photo courtesy Steve Neuhaus At the airport: Sheriff Carl DuBois, far left, with the two veterans he helped for the day, along with Chester Supervisor Steve Neuhaus, far right; Vinnie Marino of Monroe, second from right; and Bill Sabella of Chester, third from right.




  • Photo courtesy Steve Neuhaus Vinnie Marino of Monroe at the memorial.








  • Photo courtesy Steve Neuhaus Bill Sabella of Chester in front of the New Guinea section. He served there during the war.




CHESTER World War II veterans have felt many sorrows and joys in their long lives. But two local veterans used superlatives to describe last week's Honor Flight, when they flew to Washington, D.C., to see the World War II memorial along with many other veterans from around the country.

"It was the most memorable day of my life," said Bill Sabella of Chester.

Town of Chester Supervisor Steve Neuhaus helped arrange the flight, and accompanied Bill, 88, and Vinnie Marino of Monroe, 89, to aid them as they traveled. Both veterans thought the memorial was magnificent. But what they treasured most of all was the appreciation they received from well-wishers both when they left the ShopRite in Montgomery, where they had breakfast, and upon their arrival in Washington, D.C. Masses of people applauded the veterans, clapping and waving their hands in enthusiastic admiration.

"I've never in my life seen anything like it," said Bill, who served in the Army and deployed to New Guinea during the war. "It was a very emotional time for me."

"We're very proud of the young people who arranged the trip," said Viola Marino, Vinnie's wife. "It wasn't veterans or the government that did this. It was the young people, who are very patriotic. Our family is so happy."

"The people who helped, the volunteers, were very capable and very courteous," Bill said.

The Honor Flight program's Hudson Valley chapter was founded by Neuhaus and Brian Maher, mayor of Walden.

The only sadness the veterans feel is that "a few million veterans never had this opportunity," Viola said.

Vinnie served in the Army in Europe. He fought in the Battle of the Bulge, where American forces suffered 90,000 casualties, including 19,000 killed.

After their send-off from ShopRite, the veterans received a hero's escort to Stewart Air Force Base, where they took a Jet Blue flight. The honors kept coming. Letters arrived from the veteran's relatives and were delivered in flight, like a mail call. The letters told them how proud their families were of their service.

Upon arriving in D.C., their planes were showered with colored water. Then they were greeted by no less than a half-million Girl Scouts.

Honor Fight attendees spent the remainder of the day visiting the World War II Memorial, the statue of Iwo Jima, and Arlington Cemetery.

Last-minute money crisis averted

The trip, which had been planned for months, almost had to be canceled when funds ran short. A last-minute fundraiser at GW's American Burger in Chester raised nearly half of the $25,000 needed for plane fare. Efforts by Senator William Larkin, Goshen Mayor Kyle Roddey, Orange County Sheriff Carl DuBois and Neuhaus were rewarded by the generosity of local residents, who came through to cover the remaining cost.

One hundred veterans, most at or nearly 90 years of age, were able to make the trip.

"These two guys were amazing, and I was honored to be with them," Neuhaus said. "I learned a lot, and I can count it as one of my greatest days on earth. To spend an entire day with two Americans who risked all for the country...it was an emotional day."




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