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Photos: On a mission with the 'greatest generation'

World War II and Korean War veterans from Long Island traveled to Washington, D.C. Saturday, May 12, 2018 with Honor Flight Long Island, a group that has been making these trips for 10 years, bringing veterans to D.C. for free and providing the care they need to visit comfortably and safely.

Long Island veterans of World War II and the Korean War and the guardians caring for them watch the changing of the guard at Arlington National Cemetery.

Ed Cartoski, 94, enlisted and served in World War II as soon as he graduated from Westhampton Beach High School, becoming a Marine aviator. He was recalled for the Korean War, and upon retirement went to work as a test pilot for Northrop Grumman Corp. He now lives in Greenport.

Joel Ross, of Levittown, served in the Army during the Korean War. His guardian, Nikki Ruppenstein, a nurse who lives in Ronkonkoma, was doing her second trip as a volunteer. “I knew two teachers who had done the trip,” Ruppenstein said, “and when I tried it I just loved it.”


World War II Marine Tess Pierce Garber, of Jericho, had a special tour guide waiting for her when she got to the Women in Military Service for America Memorial. Retired Brigadier Gen. Wilma Vaught, who spearheaded the creation of the memorial and is its president emeritus, was on hand to meet her. The two have been in contact numerous times over the years, and when Garber was approached to go on the trip, her condition was that this memorial be added to the itinerary for the first time. “Whenever I get the word that a veteran wants to see me, I make a special effort to go in and see her,” Vaught said, even though she had to disappoint Garber. For years, Vaught has been trying to find Garber a service cap like the one she had while in the Marines and lost, but to no avail. Garber served in and around Washington in a variety of tasks during the war, including helping farmers pick crops. “We did whatever we could for the war effort,” Garber said. “We did whatever the country needed.” But her most daunting task, and most frequent one, was gathering the teletypes listing soldiers wounded, missing and killed in action. “It was terrible,” Garber said. “But it was my job, like it or not.”

Melissa McNamee, of Holbrook,  originally planned to do Honor Flight Long Island with her grandfather, Korean War Army veteran James Collura. She signed them up last summer, but they were too late for the September trip and decided to take the one in May. But Collura died, on Dec. 30. McNamee decided to take the trip anyway, and was assigned George Krug, a Navy veteran of the Korean War, as her charge. The two had a blast, hitting it off immediately, joking and watching out for each other. “It was really such an awesome day,” McNamee said afterwards, “and they really appreciated every part of the day. I’m so happy I went.”

Former senator and Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole, a wounded veteran who fought throughout his political career for more recognition for veterans, was on hand at the World War II memorial Saturday and posed for pictures with visitors from the Honor Flight Long Island trip.

Volunteers at the war memorials in Washington evoke days gone by for veterans coming to visit the memorials built to honor them.

World War II and Korean War veterans from Long Island in Washington, D.C. at the World War II memorial with the guardians and volunteers who assisted them on the trip.