World War II heroes take trip to capital

Honor Flight Long Island flies local veterans to WWII memorial


Nine local World War II veterans flew to Washington, D.C., last Sunday to visit the monument on the National Mall dedicated to veterans of the war.
The trip was organized by Honor Flight Long Island, a nonprofit founded in 2004 that has flown nearly a quarter of a million American veterans to the nation’s capital at no cost to them. The organization was created by a veteran who wanted to send his brothers and sisters in arms to see for themselves the memorial dedicated to them for their service.
HFLI made its latest flight from Long Island MacArthur Airport, in Ronkonkoma, to Baltimore/Washington International Airport early Sunday, with its nine special passengers looking forward to visiting the World War II memorial as well as the Iwo Jima Memorial, and attending a changing of the guard and a special wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery.
“I’m looking forward to the whole day,” 100-year-old Eleanor Rizutto, of Franklin Square, one of the guests of honor, said before the trip. “It’s so exciting, with all the other veterans. It brings back a lot of memories.” Another local centenarian veteran, Dominick Critelli, of Floral Park, also took the trip.
Before the group departed, elected officials honored them for their service at a ceremony in the airport. “Words cannot express how grateful we are for all that you’ve done for our great country, and for all of us,” State Sen. Anna Kaplan said. “It’s not just for service during World War II, but for all the years after that.”

Sen. Kevin Thomas added that the veterans fought to uphold the United States’ core principles, democracy and liberty.
Sen. John Brooks also spoke. “You guys not only changed the world, but created a new world,” he said of the World War II generation, noting that many veterans of the era sacrificed years of their lives to defeat Nazi Germany and imperial Japan. “All that you have given to this nation, we can never truly repay,” Brooks said.
“This is a joyous occasion,” said Robert Salant, a volunteer public relations official with HFLI. “These are our greatest generation heroes.” As to what he hoped the veterans would experience during the trip, Salant said, “A feeling, a sense that their country appreciates what they did and what they accomplished. They defended America and freedom around the world, and they’re truly living heroes, living monuments to American history.”
HFLI President Bill Jones said that the veterans the organization flies to the capital by experience much more than what is on the day’s itinerary. “The reception they get from the people that are at the memorial or at Arlington is just so phenomenal,” Jones said. “It gives them memories that we often hear they’ll never forget; it’s one of the best days of their lives. To be thanked at this time in their lives for what they did, preserving freedom for America, liberty throughout the world, is a big part of the day.”