Local WWII veterans visit war memorial in D.C.

By Julia Green
It was two years ago that Margaretville resident Ronnie Wranovics was listening to CBS’ Albany affiliate, WRGB, and she learned about the Honor Flight Network, a non-profit organization that transports World War II veterans to Washington, D.C., to visit the WWII Memorial. Wranovics, whose fiancé, Marty Hartmann, is a WWII veteran, was immediately interested.

This month, her interest paid off as, with the help of Vince Castellano, Leatherstocking Honor Flight Fund-raising Chairman, and Kathy Weisenberger, a group of local World War II veterans were able to take a trip to the nation’s capital to visit the memorial to the war in which they served. The one-day trip was sponsored by the Leatherstocking Honor Flight, which is the regional center for the Honor Flight Network.

“Marty wanted to go, and then he and Ralph Smith got talking, and they wanted to go, too,” Wranovics said. The group grew to include Margaretville residents Smith, Bob Hill and Willis Marks, Fleischmanns resident Harold West and Jefferson Phillips of Roxbury. The gentlemen traveled to Washington, D.C., on Sept. 19 with roughly 30 other area veterans. They traveled to Schoharie on Friday and stayed overnight free of charge at the Holiday Inn; on Saturday, they had a complimentary breakfast and headed for the airport – with the aid of a 50-motorcycle escort.

“It was phenomenal,” Wranovics said. “I was standing down in the parking lot watching them go up that hill with the motorcade in front of them, and that bus… it was very touching.”

When the veterans arrived in the capital, they were greeted by members of the Schenectady National Guard, who escorted them around. “They showed us a wonderful time,” Hartmann said. “You can’t explain how you feel, being there. It’s like walking on hallowed ground. When we got there, Marines and soldiers were at the door to greet us. And when we got done with that, we got back on the bus and they saluted us as we got on… they really treated us great. It’s something you can’t explain. You can explain it to people, but they don’t have the same feeling.”

In addition to the free bus and air transportation, the men received complimentary t-shirts, cameras and meals.

“Willis was so excited, he said it was the best day of his life,” Hartmann said. “And Bob Hill said, ‘I’ve never been treated like that before.’ It’s something you shouldn’t miss, if you get a chance. It’s impossible, explaining to people how you feel when you’re there.”

Wranovics said her one regret about the experience is that she was unable to join Hartmann and the other men who went. “It was pretty touching for him, and I’m sorry I missed it,” she said. “But I’m going to make it there. I’m hoping for cherry blossom time.”

It was a sentiment that Hartmann, for whom it was the first trip to the nation’s capital, shared: “It was my first trip,” he said. “But we’ll be back.”

The Honor Flight Network is available to all World War II veterans interested in visiting the World War II memorial in Washington, D.C. Those interested should contact Castellano at 607 326-2355.

Local World War II veterans were honored with a trip to Washington, D.C.: Pictured are: (standing, from left) Harold West, Kathy Weisenberger, Marty Hartmann, Willis Marks and Ralph Smith and, in front, Bob Hill.Local World War II veterans were honored with a trip to Washington, D.C.: Pictured are: (standing, from left) Harold West, Kathy Weisenberger, Marty Hartmann, Willis Marks and Ralph Smith and, in front, Bob Hill.