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Public is welcome to send off and welcome home Honor Flight Buffalo veterans

The largest group of World War II veterans ever escorted to Washington by Honor Flight Buffalo will make a trip to Washington, D.C., Saturday to see the World War II Memorial and other memorials.

Honor Flight organizers have invited the public to the Buffalo-Niagara International Airport for both the 5 a.m. send-off, which includes a solemn flag-folding ceremony, and the welcome home. The welcome-home ceremony will start around 10 p.m., and those who attend may bring flags and signs welcoming the veterans.

Because this is a charter flight booked through Southwest, Honor Flight Buffalo will transport 52 World War II veterans and one special Korean War Veteran on the trip. Previous trips on regular commercial flights have been limited to about 26 veterans and their guardians.

In Washington, the veterans, guardians, board members and volunteers will visit the memorials on three buses. They are named for the Ralph C. Wilson Foundation, for the Sabres Foundation and the Patrick Kaleta HITS Foundation, and for Army Air Corps Staff Sgt. Robert P. Wylie, the father of Jo-Anne and Lisa Wylie, two of the three co-founders of Honor Flight Buffalo. Honor Flight Buffalo is one of 142 official hubs of the Honor Flight network across the country.

The veterans flying Saturday, who include one woman, served in the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Army Air Corps, Air Force and the Army Air Force. They range in age from 87 to 95 and were stationed in the Atlantic and Pacific theaters and stateside. They include navigators and flight officers, mechanics, gun loaders, infantrymen, clerks, truck drivers, electricians, engineers, water supply technicians, decoders, radio operators, cooks, rifle men, a physician and a film processor. They were at the Battle of Bulge and among the first to cross the Rhine. One received the Bronze Star and another a Purple Heart with oak cluster.