SYRACUSE — More than 80 U.S. armed forces veterans from all over central New York touched down at Syracuse Hancock International Airport Saturday for a reception of heroes from families and advocates, who cheered their arrival from a tour of several national monuments and memorials in Washington D.C.
The reception was a celebration of Honor Flight Syracuse Mission 14, which took former service members on a tour of memorial sites honoring the conflicts for which they answered the call of duty.
Fulton native and Air Force veteran Wayne Visconti, who served during the Cold War at a Saratoga Springs base, called the trip a “great experience.”
“I liked the National World War I Memorial and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial,” Visconti said, reflecting on a “trip worth taking.”
Visconti, who after his years of service returned to work at the Sealright Corporation in Fulton as a steel machinist, also reflected on a memorable story during his time at the Saratoga Springs Air Force Station. The Fultonian said he remembers “several alert warnings” during a night shift guarding the base.
The 82 veterans landed back in Syracuse at approximately 7 p.m., after their full day in the nation’s capital where they were received on the tarmac with a water cannon salute. As veterans entered the airport terminal, the halls were inundated with thankful and cheerful family and community members, who showed their support with chants and handmade signs.
Once in the main hall, marching bands and an Irish pipe band escorted the veterans through a procession from one end of the airport to another.
“As a young naval officer, I had the good fortune of being mentored by comrades who served in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War,” said Admiral John Paddock, vice president of Honor Flight Syracuse, addressing a reverential crowd after the procession. “They instilled in me a sense of service and community. Those impacted by the wars, those who rose to the global political and military challenges for their generations share a strong sense of service and continue to benefit our society in many ways.”
Oswego County Veterans Services Agency Director Jamie Hamlin told The Palladium-Times on Sunday that event organizers go “above and beyond” to ensure Oswego County veterans can appreciate landmarks in the nation’s capital created in direct response to their service.
“The experiences and memories that they make during these missions would be hard and unjust to try and put into words,” she said. “The Oswego County Veterans Service Agency honors those who were selected to attend Mission 14 and all veterans who have sacrificed their time and pieces of themselves to serve our country.”
For brothers Henry, James, Paul and Michael Henson — who took their first trip to Washington D.C. together on Saturday — the voyage signified a moment of recognition, remembrance and peace.
Paul — who now lives in Altmar — and his brothers all enlisted in the Navy after high school to serve during the Korean War while Michael, just 4 years-old at the time, followed in his siblings’ footsteps once he was eligible to join the Army in 1968 and saw action in the Vietnam War.
“They are so humble, they feel like they don’t even deserve this,” said Henry’s daughter Debbie Scott, who was at the airport to cheer on her father and uncles. “They say they do not want the spotlight on them.”
Once the opportunity to visit the nation’s capital arose, there were family discussions about taking pride in their service and seeing the opportunity as one for healing, Scott said.
“We all sat down and said ‘we are so proud of you and you should be proud for serving our country,’” Scott said.