Peconic Landing aides help World War II vet fulfill goal on his ‘bucket list’ with honor flight

COURTESY PHOTO Veteran Norman Lyon was able to visit the World War II Memorial thanks to the Honor Flight Network and Peconic Landing aides Nicole Ellerson (left) and Nicole Gaimo, who volunteered their time to accompany him on the trip to Washington, D.C.

It took two ladies named Nicole and a national organization called Honor Flight to make one of the dreams in Norman Lyon’s “bucket list” come true.

A bucket list is everything you want to do before you die. One of those things for Mr. Lyon, a World War II veteran, was to visit Washington, D.C. to see its World War II memorial and other landmarks.

Honor Flight, which offers vets free flights on private aircraft to Washington if they are unable to get there themselves, keeps track of aged veterans. A few months ago, it notified Mr. Lyon, 89, a resident at The Shores at Peconic Landing, that he qualified for a trip.

But Honor Flight cannot provide nursing care so he needed helpers to go along with him. Enter Peconic Landing aides Nicole Ellerson and Nicole Gaimo, who volunteered to accompany Mr. Lyon on the trip. It took place on Sept. 25, from Long Island MacArthur Airport.

Up at 4 a.m. to ready themselves to get to Peconic Landing in time to pick up Mr. Lyon, the two aides spent a long and fulfilling day, arriving back at the Greenport life care community at 10 p.m.

“It was a special day with bands, ceremonies and soldiers,” Mr. Lyon said. “I traveled with two wonderful people and am grateful to them and everyone who made it possible for me.”

A former East Northport native, Mr. Lyon served as an airplane mechanic with the Army Air Corps. After his service, he built a successful career working on planes for various companies through the years. He even serviced Air Force One for various presidents and taught trainees in the United States and in Saudi Arabia to be airplane mechanics.

For their role in assuring Mr. Lyon the opportunity to take an Honor Flight, Ms. Ellerson and Ms. Gaimo, both from Riverhead, were named December co-employees of the month at Peconic Landing. Ms. Gaimo has worked there since July 2005 and Ms. Ellerson since April 2009.

The Honor Flight Network program was conceived by Earl Morse, a physician’s assistant and retired Air Force captain who happened to be a private pilot. After retiring from the Air Force in 1998, he went to work in a small Veterans Administration clinic in Springfield, Ohio. After the World War II Memorial was dedicated in Washington, D.C. in 2004, he asked aging veterans he met at the clinic if they’d been to see it. Many said they wanted to go but couldn’t afford or otherwise manage the trip. Mr. Morse got together with other pilots to make the first Honor Flight expedition in 2005.

The organization has been growing and conducting free flights for veterans ever since.

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