Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

World War II veterans back in Tampa Bay after getting stuck in Washington, D.C.

Frank Biondi, left, and Rog Saley react to a crowd of well-wishers Wednesday at the St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport. They were among 74 World War II veterans who participated in a special tour of Washington, D.C.

Photos by DIRK SHADD | Times

Frank Biondi, left, and Rog Saley react to a crowd of well-wishers Wednesday at the St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport. They were among 74 World War II veterans who participated in a special tour of Washington, D.C.

CLEARWATER — Leave it to a bunch of World War II veterans to make the best of a trying situation. Seventy-four of them were stranded in Washington, D.C., for nearly a day after completing a tour of memorials in the city with the Honor Flight program.

Family members were making frantic calls to make sure they were okay. U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young was arranging a backup flight home. And for the most part, the veterans were enjoying the camaraderie.

"It brought us closer together because we got to know each other," said Vicky Cyphers, 94, an Army veteran from Dunedin. She arrived at St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport with the group about 5 p.m. on Wednesday to a welcoming crowd of about 150 people.

Her son, George Reed, who joined her on the trip as a chaperone, said people in the military know the art of patience.

"Anyone who's ever been in the service knows it's 'hurry up and wait,' " said Reed, 78, who retired from the U.S. Air Force.

The tour, which was free for veterans, was arranged by Honor Flight of West Central Florida. The veterans were paired with volunteer chaperones who paid their own way.

Allegiant Air says a catering cart scraped the fuselage of the plane while it was preparing to leave Dulles International Airport late Tuesday. The veterans and their chaperones sat on the plane for about three hours before officials informed them the flight wasn't leaving, said Daniel Whitehurst, U.S. Air Force veteran Bill Eisenhart's chaperone. Allegiant then arranged accommodations for them at various hotels. It was about midnight when they checked in.

On Wednesday, they were whisked back to the airport for a morning flight home, but their flight didn't take off until about six hours later.

Eisenhart, 92, of St. Petersburg, who reached the rank of colonel, said the trip was "fantastic."

His wife, Penny, was thrilled with the Honor Flight program but grew frustrated with the airline as time dragged on. She said she called the CEO's office.

"I feel like they didn't take it serious enough for the age group of these people," said Penny Eisenhart. Most were in their late 80s and 90s.

Allegiant's decision to reschedule the flight was based on safety, spokeswoman Jessica Wheeler said in an email. In addition to hotel accommodations, the airline made sure the passengers had meals, she said.

If Allegiant didn't pull through, the U.S. Air Force would have, Young said. There was a backup plane ready to go and doctors were ready to provide medicine, if necessary.

On their arrival, the veterans were greeted by whoops and hollers. Greeters held signs saying things like, "Welcome Home" and "Thank You For Serving Our Country."

"It was a trip of lifetime," said U.S. Marine Corps veteran Radford Jessee, 86, of Brandon,

Lorri Helfand can be reached at lorri@tampabay.com or (727) 445-4155.

World War II veterans back in Tampa Bay after getting stuck in Washington, D.C. 04/04/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 4, 2012 11:06pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Lightning takes defenseman Cal Foote with top pick in draft

    Lightning Strikes

    CHICAGO — Former Avalanche defenseman Adam Foote said his son Cal lived in the locker room.

    Cal Foote, second from left, is welcomed to the Lightning by GM Steve Yzerman, far left.
  2. It's Rays' turn to pound Orioles pitching (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG - Ah, the fantastic four.

    The Rays smashed the reeling Orioles 15-5 on Friday, scoring a season-high in runs, to climb four games above .500 for the first time since July 1, 2015.

    Rays third baseman Evan Longoria scores on a triple by Logan Morrison during the first inning against the Orioles.
  3. Lightning picks defenseman Cal Foote

    Blogs

    Cal Foote is the son of former Avs defenseman Adam Foote.
  4. Kids today: They don't work summer jobs the way they used to

    Business

    WASHINGTON — It was at Oregon's Timberline Lodge, later known as a setting in the horror movie The Shining, where Patrick Doyle earned his first real paycheck.

    Teens Ben Testa, from left, Hannah Waring and Abby McDonough, and Wegmeyer Farms owner Tyler Wegmeyer walk the strawberry rows at the Hamilton, Va., farm in late May.
  5. Jeb Bush back in the hunt for the Marlins, now opposing Derek Jeter

    Blogs

    Associated Press:

    Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has switched sides in pursuit of the Miami Marlins, and he’s trying to beat out former teammate Derek Jeter.