Founders of Honor Flight on decision to put missions on hold

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — An often emotional salute to Rochester’s military heroes is back on hold because of coronavirus.

Organizers of Honor Flight Rochester for veterans announced on Tuesday that they have called off their flights this fall.

“We were all dressed up and ready to go to the big dance and we are not doing it right now,” sighed Honor Flight Rochester founder Richard Stewart.

Since 2008, Honor Flight Rochester has taken veterans, frequently elderly World War II vets, to the monuments of Washington, D.C. dedicated to them.

The salute and celebration of past honor flights from Rochester would this time have honored about 60 veterans and offered a special tribute marking 20 years since the September 11th terrorist attacks.

Honor Flight Co-Founder Peter Glennon took his first of the trips back when he was still in the military himself.

“When you fly on an honor flight, it’s like recharging your emotional batteries,”

After an 18-month coronavirus hiatus, the 70th Rochester honor flight mission was all set to take off two and a half weeks from now with plenty of virus precautions; but over the weekend, organizers decided to postpone all three trips scheduled for this fall declaring the resurgent danger of COVID-19 has become too severe, and the risk too great.

“If you make a mistake with a 90, or an 85-year-old, and get them infected with COVID, that’s about as awful a thing that you can do to someone,” Stewart said.

Honor Flight Rochester does plan to start back up again with three missions in the spring, starting in April. Group leaders say they understand time may be running short for their veterans and the delay could be costly.

“We get some of the people that are toward the end of their life and six months means they may not have the vitality to take the rigors of a trip,” Stewart admitted.

“They are living history,” Glennon said. “They are treasures. We have to keep them that way.”

Organizers say they have longtime relationships with vendors like Southwest Airlines, which takes them down to D.C. and Hilton hotels, where they stay in the area, so they’re confident they can work out the cost of canceling the trip.