As president and vice president of Honor Flight Buffalo, between 2010 and 2015 Lisa Wylie and Jo-Anne Wylie dedicated thousands of volunteer hours to publicizing, organizing, fundraising and personally escorting 500 local World War II veterans to Washington, D.C., to see the World War II Memorial.
The sisters dedicated themselves to the mission in memory of their father, Army Staff Sgt. Robert P. Wylie, who died in 2006 without ever seeing the majestic World War II Memorial.
The sisters founded the local hub of the national Honor Flight organization with Charles “Dan” Dunkle in 2010, stepping up to do for other veterans what they were not able to do for their father. Like many of his comrades from the war, Wylie was elderly and in ill health when the monument was dedicated in 2004, 59 years after the war ended.
Lisa Wylie said, “I sat and watched the dedication on TV with him, and I said to him, ‘I’m going to get you there one day.’ If there was an Honor Flight, I think I could have gotten him there with that help, because he didn’t pass away until 2006. That was the one regret that Jo-Anne and I had that we didn’t do for my father.”
Dunkle later left the group, and the sisters were joined by their father’s sister, Dorothy Wylie Keough, and other board members, including Lucia L. Scarpino and Deborah Watkins.
On the Buffalo hub’s first official flight on June 5, 2010, the sisters brought their father’s photo and the folded flag that had covered his casket to the memorial.
The sisters and their board members worked tirelessly, screening all applications; personally interviewing each veteran and his or her paying guardian; organizing a lunch meet-and-greet for the veterans, their families and guardians a few weeks before each flight; developing a detailed, minute-by-minute itinerary for each trip; meeting mobility challenges; and calming anxious relatives. In doing so, they gave the veterans an unforgettable day, from a moving flag ceremony before they left Buffalo to cheering crowds at the airports when they arrived home. Many veterans told their families that the day was one of the best in their lives.
After flying veterans in the spring and autumn of 2015, and seeing a dwindling number of World War II veterans able to make the trip, the sisters and Keough announced their retirement, dissolving the hub. Their five years of dedicated volunteer service to local World War II veterans earned them this well-deserved salute.
– Anne Neville