World War Two veteran, Gene Schneider, 89, had the treat of a lifetime recently when the Milford, PA., resident was flown to Washington, D.C., by the Hudson Valley Honor Flight, accompanying 90 other veterans, four from the Milford area, on April 18.
He was accompanied by his guardian, Diane Guendel, a newly retired nurse whose spouse is also a veteran. Schneider had effusive praise for his traveling companion, who pushed his wheelchair when he could not walk, and walked with him when he could.
Schneider met the couple by accident at a recent Democratic Club gathering. Initially, he was not going on the trip even after winning it because his daughter is not thrilled with the thought of flying. The Honor Flight ensures its vets are well looked after.
Each veteran on the flight had his own care person, volunteers who use their own funds to escort the veterans. Many of the veterans on this month’s flight were WWII veterans. The organization recently began taking Korean War vets as well, and is contemplating taken Vietnam vets in the very near future. There is no cost to veterans since Honor Flights are staffed by volunteers and financed by donations.
Everywhere they went, there were hundreds of people greeting them with cheers and flags, Schneider related, in addition to the bands playing.
But the bonus for him was meeting one-time presidential contender Bob Dole.
That was everything to him; just the fact that he shook Schneider’s hand sincerely and not treating him as if he was just another veteran on the trip, said the veteran.
After arriving at Reagan National Airport, the group headed for numerous monuments, which included the Korean and Vietnam Memorials, Arlington National Cemetery, and the Tomb of the Unknowns.
Wherever the veterans visited, they were greeted with more music, more cheers, and more crowds.
Schneider loved the return flight, perhaps more than the flight to Washington, which included an old-fashioned mail call and cards for the vets penned by friends and family members and then landing back at Stewart Airport. He was the last one to leave the plane, receiving a kiss from the stewardesses and pilot.
But there was more.
The biggest surprise was the sight of one of his best friends who stood there for three hours to greet him, The Pike County Courier reported.
Schneider lost his spouse of 67 years, nearly three years ago. Seeing his friend at the conclusion of a lengthy and perfect day, was just what the doctor ordered.
It eclipses anything that ever happened to him, he said, except for his wedding.