Honor Flight Rochester returns from their first mission of the year

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. – Sixty-one local veterans returning home to Rochester were greeted with rounds of applause after a trip of a lifetime to Washington D.C. to visit war memorials built in their honor.

It’s the first mission this year made possible by Honor Flight Rochester.

A trip that U.S. Marine and Vietnam War Veteran Tom Biehler said he never thought would happen.

“We tried to do this for a long time and it finally happened, and COVID set it back. I guess I really didn’t know what to expect,” Biehler said.

There was a show of support Biehler said he’s never experienced.

“It’s amazing to me to realize that somebody is that dedicated, to do something, to volunteer to do something to help us,” Biehler said.

A total of 61 veterans from the Cold War, Korean War, and the Vietnam War were all flown out as part of Honor Flight Rochester’s mission to provide vets with the trip of a lifetime.

U.S. Marine Veteran Gary Hillyard said seeing the monuments in person was an emotional experience.

“We went to the monuments, to the different areas for all the different veteran areas, the Vietnam Wall, the Korean area, the Lincoln Memorial,” Hillyard said.

Returning home to rounds of applause, Hillyard said he is so thankful to everyone who made the trip possible.

“All the support coming home. Marines aren’t supposed to cry, but i got choked up a little,” Hillyard said.

It was a flight that Navy Veteran Joe Bialuski hopes all veterans will have an opportunity to take.

“It’s something that i would recommend any service person to do. Everyone was so generous and kind. it was amazing.”