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Frank Carrozza’s Honor Flight

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Frank Carrozza was invited on an Honor Flight. The program transported him to see the WWII Memorial in Washington, D.C. The following is from their webpage

“Honor Flight Network is a non-profit organization created solely to honor America’s veterans for all their sacrifices. We transport our heroes to Washington, D.C. to visit and reflect at their memorials. Top priority is given to the senior veterans – World War II survivors, along with those other veterans who may be terminally ill.

Of all of the wars in recent memory, it was World War II that truly threatened our very existence as a nation—and as a culturally diverse, free society. Now, with over one thousand World War II veterans dying each day, our time to express our thanks to these brave men and women is running out.”

Frank was transported to and from the airport by his granddaughter Kerri and her husband, Rob. Below are the impressions and memories of the Honor Flight experience as recorded by Rob Hewitt.

“I figured I’d write this since grandpa does not seem to remember much any more the details for any one who was interested. I asked him a lot of questions on the way home.

I picked him up at 5:20 am. Apparently I had called, Carol had called, and Nancy to make sure he was up. He was ready in his hat and jacket. Grandma had cooked him a breakfast. You could tell he was very anxious and nervous. He talked of wanting to get this over with and how if no one talked to him all day, he would be quite happy with that. As we know, he usually does not do much of anything by himself, with grandma or one of the kids/grandkids always with him. On the car ride there he put his hearing aids on.

At the airport, they had things very organized. They had a table set up where you could check them in. They gave him a name tag that said Frank Carrozza, WWII Veteran, New York on it, as well as a blue t-shirt to wear that said Honor Flight (with some military images like Iwo Jima statue) on the front, and on the back “if you can read this, thank a teacher. If you can read this in English, thank a veteran.”

They also had a table with fruits and snacks like granola bars and fig newtons, which, being free, he sent me over to fill up a paper bag’s worth for him. They had a ton of wheelchairs ready and told him he could sit in one. His mood brightened considerably. He loves being pushed around in them. At that point, a guy from the VFW was going around handing out some free pins to some of the guys and somehow missed grandpa. That of course was unacceptable. Though he had no idea what the pin was, he had to have it . We eventually got the guy to come over and it was a flag pin.

There were about 35 veterans about his age and maybe 20 volunteers. A lot of women or VFW guys from later wars. You could tell by their caps. One guy in charge, the leader, gave a real gung ho speech about how that generation suffered through the worst economic conditions when they were teens and at an age when they should have been buying cars or thinking about girls, the war started, and other tributes to them. It was a bit a little corny but the veterans and volunteers gave him a thunderous applause and really seemed to appreciate it.

A woman came over and said grandpa was part of her group. She was a feisty 50 yr old or so and like a real “broad.” She teased him. I told her he was a little hard of hearing. She said her husband was a lot younger and he was hard of hearing and used a wheelchair to get around sometimes too, so she’s used to it. She then promised me she wouldn’t lose him. According to grandpa, she wheeled him around everywhere and never left his side, and was really good to him. She took pictures with his camera and hers and promised to mail him pictures. When I picked him up later she said immediately “I said I’d never lose him” and was carrying in her bag his camera and a booklet they gave out with the information and stories of each veteran that had been submitted. I have an extra copy if any one like Carl is interested and grandpa has his.

Then I left him in good hands. When I came later that night at 8pm, a guy was there who had been a volunteer (they call them guardians) 2 months ago. He said they had arranged when he went for like 500 people, including some military and retired military types, to be there and they clapped, and there were a few speeches. Grandpa didn’t remember that per se, but he did remember applause when they went different places and got off the bus so perhaps it was this organized applause the guardian spoke of or perhaps it was more spontaneous like grandpa seemed to think it was. Or both. Some of the pictures (real dark) it seems like there were some navy and army guys and other types who were there, and some instruments playing but he doesn’t really remember. The website says that the weekday visits they don’t have that but on the Saturday ones, they arrange for the military and a special guest to be present.

They all got on a bus and were driven around. They got off at the memorial and former Senator Bob Dole (Carol-he ran for President against Bill Clinton in 1996. You voted against him and he lost J), who is involved with the group, was there. They all crowded around him. He gave a short speech. “Nothing worth remembering,” grandpa said, as he shrugged. Grandpa did not get to shake his hand. “I wasn’t that close” but pictures seem to show he was fairly close. He saw Dole’s (a WWII veteran who had been wounded and whose right arm was sewn back on but was useless) arm wrapped up and with the pen he keeps in his hand so people don’t try to shake the bad arm. Grandpa called the pen his “trademark.”

From there they seem to have headed to the WWII memorial, which is apparently huge. Grandpa remembered the big fountain and that there was a column from every state. He took a picture of himself by New York and something that said something about D-Day, which he has always been proud of being apart of. They also went to Iwo Jima memorial and got pictures there.

Later they took a bus tour around Washington where someone on the bus pointed out all the sites. He remembered the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials (he wasn’t too impressed by the pseudo Greek/Roman architecture “they’re just buildings”), the Washington memorial, Arlington Cemetery “with rows and rows of thousands of graves” and “a memorial to this, a memorial to that, I don’t really remember the names.” I asked him if he liked Washington. He paused a minute and said “It’s…. how do you say…historical looking.” I remember him once saying he did not have to go to the Grand Canyon, or the Eiffel Tower, or Mt. Rushmore. “I’ve seen them. I’ve seen them on TV.” When asked whether he liked things like the Iwo Jima memorial he said, “It was very nice but you’ve seen it. You’ve seen it on TV, as well as I did in person.”

What he remembered most about the bus trip was the giant sandwiches. They gave them a box, which had two giant sandwiches. “Too big to finish.” But then he let me know he had indeed finished them J. They also had a buffet dinner at one place with lots of hot food. What kind? “the usual buffet kind. You know.”

At the airport, I was worried maybe the day had been too much for him or not fun. But when he got off the plane he was beaming and saw me and kept waiving. He had a really great time and had nothing but good things to say. He said the entire time all the volunteers took complete care of him and he had no complaints at all about that. He said a nice goodbye to the woman who had walked him around. He had a card with a woman’s e-mail address and name but he was not clear whether this was her name. He didn’t think so at the time, but later said it could be. This may have been another woman volunteer who he mentioned also had taken pictures and said she could share them with him. Two other veterans said “goodbye Frank, it was nice meeting you” and gave big handshakes. So much for not talking to anyone.

And also with him was a veteran, and his daughter who was a volunteer, who gave him a big goodbye. His name was Santo. He had actually been in the same squadron and group grandpa was in, at the same time. He worked on the ground crew, repairing and prepping the planes. Grandpa said he was not sure if he worked on grandpa’s plane, but that he mentioned the name of another plane grandpa remembered. Apparently, Santo and grandpa spent the entire day together more or less reminiscing and talking. Grandpa did not remember the guy from WWII, but the guy told me when he saw the name Frank Carrozza in the book (pronouncing Carrozza in a very “foreign” way), he remembered it. He said how nice it was to see grandpa and that they had a good time together and they parted like old friends part. “

After he got out of the wheelchair, I took one last picture of grandpa standing there, the proud veteran who had a long day. On the way home he told what happened and seemed to miss grandma. He thought she might come to pick him up because “she didn’t even kiss me goodbye” which was sweet the way he said it. They had argued in the morning “I don’t remember why” and he seemed a little worried she was still mad at him. But she greeted him with a big greeting when we came home and he was very happy. All in all, a successful day.

Frank is photographed in front of the Iwo Jima Monument

Frank is photographed in front of the Iwo Jima Monument

Frank and the group of veterans honored this day.

Frank and the group of veterans honored this day.

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During the flight

During the flight

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Senator Bob Dole addresses Frank and the other honored vets.

Senator Bob Dole addresses Frank and the other honored vets.

Former Presidential candidate Bob Dole. Himself a disabled WWII veteran.

Former Presidential candidate Bob Dole. Himself a disabled WWII veteran.

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Frank poses in front of a fountain inscribed "D-Day" n which Frank took part. Also enscribed "The Battle of the Bulge." Franks bomb group flew in missions to support the surrounded ground troops in that battle.

Frank poses in front of a fountain inscribed "D-Day" n which Frank took part. Also enscribed "The Battle of the Bulge." Franks bomb group flew in missions to support the surrounded ground troops in that battle.

4 Responses to “Frank Carrozza’s Honor Flight”

  1. Marion says:

    I had the honor of going with my father, Santo on the same flight as Frank. Dad was thrilled to see his buddy after so many years. They reminisced about their time in the 344th the entire trip. It was a great day!

  2. Kerri Hewitt says:

    Glad he got the chance to do and see this before it was “too late”

  3. Mom Kenngott says:

    I will always be so grateful that you wrote all of this down that weekend..no words can express..thats thinking ahead..grandpa would like that!

  4. Carol Carrozza says:

    Job well done Rob.. so glad you wrote it all right away so it would not be lost! You captured his personality as well as the details.. Mom

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