Lisa Wylie, president of Honor Flight Buffalo, went to work on Monday, the day a story appeared in The Buffalo News asking World War II veterans to fill a free Honor Flight to Washington set for May 30.
When she arrived home, her phone was ringing as she walked in the door at 6 p.m.
“I figured, ‘I might as well answer it and then change out of my work clothes and have something to eat,’ ” she said Tuesday.
After taking call after call, she finally got to change and have dinner at 10:45.
While a bit overwhelmed by the “awesome” response, Wylie also was delighted that not only will her organization be able to fill the 14 remaining empty seats on the coming flight, they have a good head start on the passenger list for the October flight.
She estimates that the group received 75 or more names of veterans wishing to take the free flight to Washington to see the National World War II Memorial and other monuments, and to share a day of camaraderie and fun with fellow veterans. Each veteran is accompanied by a guardian who pays for his or her own flight, usually a friend or family member, but Honor Flight has an extensive waiting list of people eager to pay to escort a veteran they don’t know.
“I had 30 emails yesterday and probably another 30 today,” Wylie said Tuesday. “My answering machine was full yesterday, I cleared it last night, and it’s full again today.”
The early callers were able to fill the May slots, she said. “The ones I called Tuesday night, they can all go in May. Now we are reserving spots for October.”
Applications, which can be found online at HonorFlightBuffalo.org, must be filed for each veteran and his or her guardian, and a $375 check for the guardian’s expenses must be submitted.
“Throughout the history of our organization, we have taken according to application dates, and that’s exactly what we are going to do,” Wylie said.
Some prospective guardians and family members were so anxious to get on the May flight that they offered to hand-deliver the applications and checks to her, Wylie said.
Not all the calls were from those who wanted to take the Honor Flight. One 97-year-old widow of a veteran called to thank Wylie for the work she, her sister Jo-Anne, their aunt, Dorothy Keough, and the group’s other volunteers are doing for World War II veterans.
“The veterans I talked to last night, none of them was a 10-minute phone call,” Wylie said. “They really pull at your heartstrings, and we want to get them on a flight.”
Wylie asked for patience from applicants while she and the other volunteers sort through the applications, fill the remaining seats and start the roster for the late October flight. Veterans who have not applied should do so for future flights, she said.
On May 30, veterans will arrive at Buffalo Niagara International Airport at 4:45 a.m., with a solemn send-off ceremony planned to start at 5 a.m. The veterans’ charter flight is scheduled to touch down at 9:30 p.m. and the veterans will be welcomed home by family, friends, local military cadets, Patriot Guard Riders and members of other organizations. Both the send-off and welcome home ceremonies are open to all.