by Theresa Oliver
Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell accompanied 86-year old Brewster resident Salvatore Inserra, a WWII Navy veteran, and approximately 100 other veterans and their guardians on a HV (Hudson Valley) Honor Flight to Washington, DC to visit the World War II Memorial on Saturday, April 26.
The HV Honor Flight is a local chapter of the National Honor Flight Network and encompasses veterans in Putnam, Orange, Ulster, Westchester, Rockland and Dutchess counties. It flies out of Stewart International Airport in Newburgh
“You only remember a few days of your life,” said Inserra. “The day MaryEllen and I traveled on the HV Honor Flight is one that I will remember for the rest of my life. To be able to see the WWII Memorial and the changing of the guard at Arlington Cemetery was incredible. It made me recall my days in Guam.”
Inserra was a seaman 1st class in the Navy and served in the South Pacific campaign. His squad was stationed in Guam for 16 months from 1945-46. It was their job to guard the Japanese Prisoners of War.
A Brewster resident since 2003, Inserra is the chaplain of VFW Post 672.
“Last year was the first time I had the privilege to be a guardian for one of the WWII veterans who live in Putnam and it was an amazing experience,” said Odell. “I am so honored that I was able to accompany Sal this year. He is an active member of the veteran community in Putnam and being able to share this day with him meant so much to me.”
The Honor Flight Network program was conceived by Earl Morse, a physician assistant in the Air Force. After completing 27 years in the service, Morse retired in 1998 knowing he wanted to do something more for the veterans he had cared for during his career. In May of 2004, while Morse was working at a small veteran’s clinic in Springfield, Ohio, the World War II Memorial was unveiled in Washington, DC. For many of the veterans in his care, visiting the WWII Memorial was their greatest and, oftentimes, their last wish. Unfortunately, few could afford to make the trip.
As a result, Morse founded National Honor Flight to raise funds to allow any veteran who wished to make the one-day, all-expense paid trip to Washington, D.C. to view the monument erected in their honor. Guardians wishing to accompany a veteran pay their own way at a cost of approximately $400.
Today, the Honor Flight Network has more than 70 chapters throughout the United States and 2013 marks their ninth year transporting more than 81,000 WWII, Korean and Vietnam veterans to the nation’s capitol. The HV Honor Flight Chapter sponsors two trips per year.
“The Honor Flight is a wonderful way for the country to show its gratitude to those who were willing to risk themselves for the sake of our freedom,” said Odell. “I would love to get the remaining WWII veterans we have in Putnam registered for the next flight.”
To find out how to reserve a seat for a veteran or how to become a guardian, call County Executive MaryEllen Odell’s office at 845-808-1001.