Community Welcomes Home Honor Flight Veterans

Rochester Airport--It's a moment Len Schmitt can't put into words.
"I'm still crying. It's a great experience," the 87-year-old said.
    He's one of 44 veterans returning on the 27th Honor Flight Rochester.
    The program flies veterans and their chaperones to Washington, D.C. to visit the monuments built in their honor.
    Chaperone Jeremy Bagley is also a veteran himself and was honored to take the trip. 
"To go down with the generation who has really set the standard for what our military, I don't think I could ever do it again. I mean, ever do anything that great again."
    It's then family, friends, even strangers who greet them at the Rochester Airport when they return.
"It was so electrifying really," said Diane O'Malley who is Len Schmitt's daughter. "Everyone was just so pumped up to see these men coming home."
"We didn't realize how many people were going to be here," added Curt Rickard. "We thought it'd be just a small turn out, not knowing it was as big of a deal as it really is."
     The first Honor Flight Rochester was in 2009.
    Since then, the welcome home celebration has only gotten bigger each year.
"This is the Rochester community's way of welcoming home our veterans who never got a welcome home," said Honor Flight Spokesman, Rick Meier.    
    Veterans like Harold Johnson are taken back by all of the efforts.
"It's unbelievable to a degree. But it's good. It makes you feel good."
"I think of some of my friends who died and I think of some of the other tragedies that we've encountered during all of these wars," Schmitt reflected. "Yet we seem to bounce back, and keep coming up to the front again."
    A benefit concert to raise money for Honor Flight Rochester is scheduled for Saturday, April 27th at Nazareth College.
    100 percent of the proceeds will go toward sending a veteran to D.C. 
    For more information, click here.

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