December 21, 2014

Elyria
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VFW program gives WWII vets a free ride

ELYRIA — The veterans of World War II have been called America’s greatest generation, and several local veteran leaders are trying to make sure that that members of that generation are honored the way they should be with free flights to the nation’s capital to view the World War II memorial.
“If it were not for those veterans, Europe and the Pacific region would not be free nations,’’ said Gene O’Quinn, vice commander of the Elyria Veterans of Foreign Wars. “We have the World War II veterans to thank for that.”
In an attempt to honor those veterans, O’Quinn and the Elyria VFW’s commander, John Victor, are working on the Honor Flight Cleveland board, which provides free flights to Washington, D.C., for those veterans.
“Most of them are in their 80s now and can’t drive themselves or take a long bus ride,” O’Quinn said. “They waited
63 years for that memorial, and now they deserve to see it.”
The inaugural flight of the program, which serves veterans from Ashtabula to Toledo, took off May 23 and, according to O’Quinn, it was just what the veterans needed.
“They received cheers from people at the airport, and children at the memorial came up to them, shook their hands and said, ‘thank you,’ ” O’Quinn said. “It’s exactly what those veterans deserve.”
In addition to free flights, the veterans also receive free bus fare to the monument and two meals during their daylong treks.
“The program takes a lot of commitment, dedication and time, but it’s well worth it to see the smiles on the faces of those veterans,” O’Quinn said. “For one day, they get the honor that they well deserve.”
The next flight will take off June 20 from Hopkins International Airport in Cleveland, and the group plans to continue hosting flights once every month.
 For information, contact the Elyria VFW at (440) 365-8500.
Contact Joe Medici at 329-7152 or jmedici@chroniclet.com.