- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 16, 2014

TOWANDA, Pa. (AP) - World War II veteran Lynn Maynard, 92, of Gillett, said the recent Twin Tiers Honor Flight trip “was the greatest thing that’s happened in a long time to me.”

“I loved it,” he said.

Accompanied by his son, Gary, he visited the U.S. National World War II Memorial.

“That’s a wonderful piece of art, I’ll tell you,” Lynn commented. “You can’t imagine how they built that. It’s just gorgeous.”

Often referred to as the “greatest generation,” the 52 World War II veterans on the Twin Tiers Honor Flight trip were between the ages of 88 and 95. The veterans sought out the individual granite pillars of New York and Pennsylvania, and spent time walking around the large fountain pool. Many stopped to reflect at the Freedom Wall with its message: “Here we mark the price of freedom,” and took notice of 4,048 gold stars, each representing 100 Americans who died in the war.

From 1942-45, Lynn served in Africa and Italy. A member of the Army Infantry, he was in three major battles in Italy. He was not injured in battle, though he hurt his knee in training before the war, an injury that bothered him in the war. He arrived in Africa initially, trained there, and landed in Naples.

The father and son recalled the enthusiastic reception the veterans received at the airports in Washington, D.C. and Binghamton.

Once the Honor Flight landed at Dulles International Airport, the veterans were greeted by local military members and residents from the Washington, D.C. area.

Lynn remembered how people were cheering and hollering, “welcome to Washington, D.C.”

Then, back in Binghamton, he said, it was “like we just came home from the war.”

“It was kind of touching,” he said.

Veterans were greeted upon landing at Binghamton Regional Airport by hundreds of people, some of whom had been waiting nearly four hours. Family members, local Boy Scout and Girl Scouts, the B.C. Celtic Pipes and Drums, and several military groups, including VFW Post 1371 Honor Guard from Owego, N.Y. were there to give the veterans a warm welcome home.

Participants waved flags, and patriotic music played as each veteran entered the hangar, announced by their guardian, and then was greeted with a hand shake from Broome County Executive Debbie Preston. Once everyone was gathered in the hangar, Preston spoke briefly to the crowd. To the veterans directly, she stated, “Thanks to all of you. You have made a wonderful difference in our lives today.”

As his guardian on the trip, Gary said he took his father around in a wheelchair, since his father can’t walk long distances.

He was amazed by how people reacted to the veterans.

“I was so impressed. So many strangers would come up and thank him for his service,” he said. Gary said people wanted to take a picture of his father, with their children in the photo. He recalled how firefighters were on hand and sprayed water on the plane.

“I was so proud to be there with him, especially being his son,” Gary said. Gary recalled how he and his father visited Italy in 1995.

“That was nice, that was where he went through the war.”

The Honor Flight Trip, he said, “just made it absolutely more perfect. It was a very well planned trip.”

Gary was “absolutely” grateful that World War II veterans could go on the trip, noting that there’s “not many of them left.”

Lynn, who lost a brother, Melvin, in the war, said he encourages people to visit the U.S. National World War II Memorial. In addition to visiting the Pennsylvania part of the memorial, he spent time in the part dealing with Italy.

Lynn said the memorial stands for honor and “winning the war” and also is a tribute to those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

Also locally, Ed Austin from East Troy and Neal Halstead, 84, a Korean War veteran from 1951-53 who served in an ordnance/automotive shop in Japan during the war, from Centerville, Ridgebury Township, also went on the trip.

“That was the most amazing thing that ever happened in my life,” Halstead commented. “The people that turned out for it, I just can’t believe it.” He said there were hundreds in Binghamton welcoming the veterans back and people in Washington, D.C. wanted to shake the veterans’ hands.

“It was a very wonderful thing,” he said.

He visited the Korean War Veterans Memorial, which he thought was “quite impressive,” in addition to the other war memorials.

“Everything went perfect” on the trip, he said. He thanked Jeff Gural, owner of Tioga Downs Casino in Nichols, N.Y. and CEO of American Racing and Entertainment, for funding the trip.

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Online:

https://bit.ly/1qZQyHE

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Information from: The Daily Review, https://www.thedailyreview.com

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