Veterans Voices: Honor Flight’s first priority is World War II veterans, but they’re becoming harder to find

Veterans Voices

This week, NewsChannel 9 and 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.

WASHINGTON, D.C. (WSYR-TV) — 98-year-old Lynn Ostrander, from Syracuse, was the oldest veteran on Honor Flight Syracuse’s Mission 15 in September. After months of waiting for the flight, he finally got to see the World War II Memorial built in his honor.

“I’ve been to Washington, but not here,” Ostrander says at the memorial in an interview with NewsChannel 9.

Ostrander doesn’t brag. He admits to serving only one day.

“I was shot down my first trip out,” he recalls

His bravery had to last a lot longer. He was a prisoner of war in Nazi custody for three months and 10 days.

“SS was terrible to us,” he says. “Common soldiers were good fellas.

Stories like his are important to hear now, because the chances of hearing them again are fading away. Ostrander is one of only six World War II veterans on Honor Flight Syracuse’s 15 mission.

Six is a significantly small number for an organizer that used to fill planes with veterans from World War II. Honor Flight was founded to specifically make sure America’s oldest veterans get to see the memorial built in their honor. But as the years pass by, so do they.

Randy Flath, the founder of Syracuse Honor Flight, says: “The median ages of these guys are 90, late 90s, early 100s. Some are able to go. Some are not, unfortunately. If anyone knows any World War II veterans, get them signed up.”

When Mission 15 was filled, it included every last WWII veteran on Honor Flight Syracuse’s waiting list.

“If we get a World War II vet,” Flath says, “they’re going to the top of the list. They’re still out there. Sometimes, they don’t feel they’re the ones that need go. ‘Somebody else can go. I’ll sit back.’ We don’t want that. Talk them into going. Surprise them with it.”

People can apply to fly with Honor Flight Syracuse on the organization’s website.

Honor Flight won’t hold any mobile veteran back due to a health condition. It also works to honor veterans at home, in the event they’re not well enough to travel.

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