Just a few weeks before Memorial Day, longtime Camillus resident and World War II veateran Don Flath was given the opportunity to visit the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.
But better than the chance to visit the memorials was that the trip was made entirely possible through Honor Flight Network, an organization dedicated to helping veterans visit the Washington monuments free of charge.
Flath first heard about the program in 2007 and applied in January 2008 for a trip. A little more than a year later, he was on his way to Washington with his son, Randy, as a companion to the group of about 50 other veterans and 40 guardians to help keep them on schedule.
"Nobody should ever miss it," Flath said of his experience at the monuments. "Lots of vets don't know it's available to them."
'They thought I was 4F'
Flath was 20 when he enlisted in the United States Army in 1943. A native of Skunk City - "a good place to grow up," he said - Flath joked that he joined the Army because girls wouldn't dance with him, thinking he had been deemed unfit for military service.
"They thought I was a 4F," Flath laughed.
He spent four years in the service, much of his time in the China-Burma-India theater, where Flath said troops were charged with keep ing Japanese and German forces from meeting in India.
After he returned to Central New York, Flath settled in Camillus, where he and his wife raised three children.
His son, Randy Flath, said he grew up listening to his dad's war stories but when he accompanied him on his Honor Flight trip he not only heard different tales, he saw his father in a different light.
"It was like they were rejuvinated," the younger Flath said of his father and fellow veterans. "I saw him smile more this trip than ever before."