World War II Veterans Take Trip to See Their Memorial

May 27, 2011 Updated May 27, 2011 at 5:10 PM EDT

By Jaclyn Asztalos

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May 27, 2011 Updated May 27, 2011 at 5:10 PM EDT


They are know as the "Greatest Generation" of our time, those Americans who emerged from the Depression to fight and win what is called the most devastating war in history.

"I saw a lot of my friends killed in action and I feel fortunate to be alive," World War II Navy Veteran Charles Blakely said.

"I got a sniper bullet in the back," World War II Nick Marinaccio said.

Twenty-seven World War II veterans, whose stories seem like something from an epic novel, came together to remember those moments close to their heart. Honor Flight Buffalo hosted a trip to Washington DC for these vets to see the World War II memorial.

"It's very awe inspiring. It's so nice to have had the opportunity to do this," World War II Navy Veteran El Bellomo said.

World War II Navy Veteran Raymond Pfeiffer agrees.

"It's very beautiful and impressive. Each state has a monument and it's just gorgeous," Pheiffer said

Many say it's been a long time coming. Victory in WWII was declared on May 8th 1945. It wasn't until 2004 that the memorial was completed and for most of these veterans from Western New York it was the first time they were seeing this tribute to their sacrifice.

"It brought tears to my eyes I was really thrilled," World War II Marine Veteran Darwin Schulz said.

The vets say when they saw the memorial there were not only memories but a flood of emotion.

"I felt a little emotional, a lot of things came back to me," World War II Navy Veteran Peter Xanthros said.

World War II Navy Veteran Joe Kirists remembers those who were on the front lines.

"I was lucky to be on the destroyer---when I talk to my friends and what they went through I feel humble, like may be I shouldn't be here. Maybe those guys who did the dirty work--especially guys in the infantry, they should be here first," Kirists said.

The veterans also got to see other memorials including those dedicated to the Vietnam and Korean Wars among others. Since Honor Flight Buffalo began, it has sent more than 50 vets to see their memorial that has been 59 years in the making but these vets agree it was worth the wait.

"I felt overwhelmed. It just made me happy and I felt like weeping for joy," Blakely said.