Whitestone World War II veteran visits Washington, DC memorial – QNS.com
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A Whitestone resident was one of nine World War II veterans to make a special trip to visit the nation’s capital on Sunday.
More than 75 years after the end of the war, army veteran Constantine “Gus” Efthimiades, 95, and his distinguished guests had the opportunity to participate in the day trip on October 3, where the group toured the WWII Memorial, witnessed the Changing of the Guard at Arlington National Cemetery, attended a special wreath laying ceremony, and ended with a visit to the Memorial to ‘Iwo Jima.
Upon their return to Islip, the nine veterans were greeted by the Long Island Bagpipe Band and an enthusiastic welcome from hundreds of supporters.
The veterans took off from Islip MacArthur Airport with Honor Flight Long Island (HFLI), an Arlington, Virginia-based non-profit organization that has offered free trips to Washington for veterans since its inception in 2005. L HFLI’s operation was suspended during COVID-19 and returned On August 15, the board of directors voted unanimously to reinstate its semi-annual flights to DC starting in the spring of 2022.
Many HFLI trips for 2020 and 2021 have been canceled and all nine veterans have been placed on a waiting list for trips to DC. The organization contacted vets and their families and booked a special one-day flight to the nation’s capital.
“I enjoyed the excitement of the day. I was impressed with the changing of the guards at Arlington Cemetery, ”said Efithimiades. “The WWII Memorial was bigger than I expected. I felt really good when they were talking about the 69th fights [my division.] I felt like I belonged to this group of people. I appreciate and thank all the volunteers and organizers who put in so much effort and were so helpful. I love patriotism in the USA!
Army veteran Dominick Critelli, 100, of Floral Park, has joined Efthimiades; Air Force veteran Vincent DePalo, 98, of Bethpage; Navy veteran Robert Harms, 95, of Carle Place; 100-year-old Air Force veteran Louis Peretz from Commack; Army Nurse Eleanor Rizutto, 100, of Franklin Square; Navy veteran Stephen Samsel, 94, of Fairfield, CT; Vincent Tolve, Army Air Corps veteran, 98, from Mastic Beach; and army veteran Eugene Zanger, 93, of Massapequa.
“Gus Efthimiades and these veterans are part of the greater generation who fought and risked their lives for our American ideals of freedom and democracy, and upon their return from WWII, worked to rebuild our nation and strengthen our communities, ”said Senator John Liu. “We owe them a continuing debt of gratitude and I am honored to join the Honor Flight Network in sending them to our nation’s capital to see the memorial erected in their honor.”
During the war, Newsday reported that Efthimiades was an army corporal who fought in France, Belgium and Germany. More than a decade after the end of World War II, he and his wife Ellen bought a house in Whitestone in 1956, where they still live today.
The couple have been married for 66 years and have three sons, seven grandsons and two great-grandchildren.
“This special honor flight gives nine of our ‘greatest generation’ Americans the opportunity to contemplate their military memorials, meet representatives from their branches of service, sympathize with other veterans and ‘swap stories about WWII,’ said Bill Jones, president of Honor Flight Long Island. “What the flight really means is a big hug to these Honor Flight veterans, their families and all of our supporters who make such flights possible.