BINGHAMTON, NY – Veterans everywhere circle the date on their calendar when they get to go on a free flight to Washington D-C to see memorials from the wars they fought it.
NewsChannel 34’s James Atherlay shows us how 1 veteran uses his own experiences to escort other veterans to the nation’s capital.
Robert Gardner currently works with several American Legions in the area, and has participated in the last several Twin Tiers Honor Flights.
He says he’s motivated by his own experiences in the Navy during the Vietnam War.
“I was in radio. What we did was communicate back and forth with other ships, and of course with the Navy Department itself,” says Gardner.
Gardner did not see any direct combat during the war, in fact, his ship was on the other side of the globe in the Atlantic Ocean.
He served in the Navy from 1963 to 69, and got his business degree from Broome Tech and plenty of work afterwards.
“I got called by a place called GAF, General Aniline and Film. It was ANSCO before that. I went to work there in photography,” says Gardner.
The Binghamton Native got involved with the American Legion in 1968, was named Broome County Commander in 2011, and District Commander in 2015.
Most recently, he has been with Post 974 in Whitney Point.
“When you leave the military, you’re still a veteran. Veterans are the people that actually make it so we can celebrate our freedoms,” says Gardner.
Gardner is also a key volunteer for the Twin Tier Honor Flight, which provides free same day flights to and from Washington DC so that older veterans can visit the various war memorials there.
“It’s to give veterans, who haven’t had the chance to go see the memorials, first of all, and their memorials are set up for veterans to celebrate being a veteran,” says Gardner.
Gardner says the emotions of the flight always get to him and the veterans he brings.
He says its the very least he can do for veterans like him.
There may not have been a flight this year, but he hopes to be back on 1 next year.