Local Villager veterans moved by emotional trip to DC
held back tears as he reflected on the emotional day he had visiting Washington, D.C., with more than 60 other veterans.
The U.S. Army veteran who served in the Vietnam War was taken aback by the number of student groups they encountered during Villages Honor Flight’s Mission 56 on Wednesday. He said so many students stopped to shake their hands and thank the veterans for their service. And he was just as emotional when he saw the crowd waiting for them at American Legion Post 347 in Lady Lake when they returned from the trip. “This is our welcome home,” the Leesburg resident said.
Sixty-seven local veterans as well as their guardians embarked on the trip of a lifetime to Washington, D.C
., from Post 347 early Wednesday morning. Once there, the group visited various war memorials and monuments, including Arlington National Cemetery, the U.S. Air Force Memorial, the Korean War Veterans Memorial and many others, said Bob Siano, flight director for Mission 56.
All in all, it was an incredible day,” said Siano, of the Village of Bonita.
Veterans on the trip represented all branches of the U.S. military and served in wars dating back to Vietnam, he said.
So much of the trip was made possible by the volunteer guardians who accompany the veterans and assist them throughout the mission.
Becki Monroe accompanied Krihwam on Mission 56, and it was her fifth time as a guardian with VHF. She said it’s meeting and interacting with all of the veterans that keeps her coming back.
This time, she enjoyed watching the student groups interact with the veterans.
We can’t plan that — it was just so special,” said Monroe, of the Village of Chatham.
“They were shaking hands and were just so sincere. They really knew what these guys had done.”
Mission 56 also was special because Parady Financial Group raised money for the trip in honor of 102-year-old World War II veteran Josef Bienstock, who lives in an independent living center in New York, said Liza Walters, VHF’s vice president of operations.
During the Wednesday evening homecoming, Bienstock was honored with a banner. His daughter, Village of Mallory Square resident Elsa Williams, was there to represent him.
Bienstock was a Jewish refugee who was kicked out of school in Germany and fled to the U.S. Soon after immigrating to the U.S., he was drafted into the war and sent back to serve in Germany.
Williams was proud to represent him at the welcome home event.
He is proud of our Jewish heritage and the fact that he is a Holocaust survivor,”
she said. “You don’t have too many World War II veterans left. He still puts on his original U.S. Army uniform on Veterans Day.”
Williams nominated her dad to be sponsored by Parady in an effort to lift his spirits.
He was very thankful,” she said. “We’re very proud of him because he’s part of living history.”
Although this was the fourth mission that Parady had sponsored a veteran, it was the first time the financial firm asked for nominations, said Linda Bennett, Parady’s director of events. Each of the selection board members was touched by Bienstock’s story.
It was very heartwarming,” Bennett said. “That’s America — that’s USA.”
Mission 56 was the final regular Villages Honor Flight for 2022.
The next Villages Honor Flight is a flightless mission Saturday when local veterans will get to experience Washington, D.C., virtually as they are unable to make the in-person mission for health reasons.
The flightless mission will take place at Eisenhower Recreation. Veterans will be welcomed back between 2:30 and 3 p.m. at American Legion Post 347. Entertainment will start around 1:15 p.m.
In 2023, two regular missions are set for April 19 and Sept. 27, with a flightless mission Nov. 19.
Any U.S. veteran who served at least one day in active duty is eligible to go on an Honor Flight mission. Villages Honor Flight serves veterans in Lake, Sumter, Marion, Citrus and Hernando counties, according to its website.
To sign up or learn more about Villages Honor Flight, visit villageshonorflight.org or call 352-432-1382.
: Harry Prosser, a Village of Mallory Square resident who served in the U.S. Air Force, kisses his wife, Gracelyn, when he arrives from Mission 56 with Villages Honor Flight on Wednesday at American Legion Post 347 by Rachel Stuart, Daily Sun
Local Villager veterans moved by emotional trip to DC Article written Staff writer Veronica Wernicke from The Daily Sun