‘I’ve never seen that smile on him:’ Veteran who flew with Honor Flight’s Mission 15 dies at peace five days later

Veterans Voices

This week, NewsChannel 9 and LocalSYR.com are honoring Central New York’s servicemembers with a series of special reports from Washington, D.C. for Honor Flight Syracuse’s Mission 15 culminating with a special broadcast on Veterans Day, “Veterans Voices” at 7pm on NewsChannel 9.

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — Brian Holz isn’t new to Honor Flight Syracuse. As a firefighter with the City of Syracuse, he’s run one of the trucks that shoots water cannons over the plane when it lands back at the airport.

Not this year. For Mission 15, Holz was inside the plan as a guardian for his 72-year-old father, Ted.

During the trip, Ted shared some long-withheld stories. “He didn’t talk much about what we went through,” said Brian. “I had heard more of what we went through. He was more open then.”

Ted recalled his time as a paratrooper and drill sergeant during the Vietnam War. The conversations were sometimes healing, but not easy.

His son recalled: “He did not want to go down to the Vietnam Memorial, to the wall. He stood back and kept shaking his head.”

Up close, it’s painfully obvious how many names are listed, each representative of a person who didn’t make it home alive like Holz did.

Brian remembers his dad particularly loving the welcome-home ceremony back at Syracuse Hancock International Airport. Particularly for Vietnam-era veterans, the procession feels like the “thank you” they didn’t get after initially coming home from the controversial war.

“That it was a welcome home and not getting spit on,” said Holz. “I’ve never seen him smile like he smiled that day when he got off the plane.”

Brian will never see that smile again. His dad, Ted, died five days later. His heart gave out at home.

Considering Mission 15 was delayed almost two years, cutting it that close feels like a miracle to those who organized the trip.

Maybe Holz was finally at peace with his service. His son was certainly at peace getting that special time with dad just days before his passing.

“It’s a day I’ll never forget,” Brian said.

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