Companies join forces to help 53 local veterans visit memorials in Washington, DC
Thanks to charitable contributions from M&T Bank and the Buffalo Bills Foundation, 53 local veterans boarded a special Buffalo Niagara Honor Flight headed to Washington, D.C., on Saturday.
Buffalo Niagara Honor Flight helps transport this nation’s oldest veterans – who served in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War – visit the memorials honoring their service and sacrifice to their country – all at no charge to the veterans.
Escorted by 10 volunteers from M&T Bank and Buffalo Bills, including cornerbacks Levi Wallace and Taron Johnson, the group departed Saturday morning from the Buffalo Niagara International Airport and returned later in the evening. Prior to takeoff, the organizations held a special sendoff ceremony to make it a truly memorable experience for the veterans.
“This flight is especially meaningful to our employees, many of whom are veterans themselves and know firsthand the sacrifices involved in military service,” said Doug Stevens, M&T Bank senior vice president and manager of credit risk oversight. He is a veteran who served in the U.S. Navy as a lieutenant and nuclear-trained officer. “Every veteran deserves the opportunity to visit the memorials and experience the impact their sacrifices still have on the lives of all Americans, and we’re glad to join forces with the Buffalo Bills Foundation to help make the Buffalo Niagara Honor Flight possible.”
The opportunity for M&T and the Buffalo Bills Foundation to team up and honor veterans through Buffalo Niagara Honor Flight was facilitated by M&T’s Veterans Resource Group, which Stevens helps to lead. This is the second time the two organizations hosted a Buffalo Niagara Honor Flight.
“We are extremely proud that M&T Bank has joined with the Buffalo Bills Foundation and a group of our players to honor our veterans in such a special way,” said Gretchen Geitter, president of the Buffalo Bills Foundation. “Today, a dedicated group of men and women are able experience part of the lasting impact that their service and sacrifice had on our country. They are our heroes and we are proud to help facilitate this experience.”
M&T, the Buffalo Bills Foundation and Buffalo Niagara Honor Flight have taken strides to make this a memorable experience for the honored veterans. After meeting early Saturday morning at Leonard Post 6251, the veterans received a special police, fire and Patriot Guard Riders escort to the airport, where an orchestra playing patriotic anthems welcomed them. Veterans’ families, friends and local Honor Flight supporters were there to send them off.
“M&T Bank, and members of M&T’s Veterans Resource Group, and the Buffalo Bills Foundation have become more than just sponsors – they’re true partners,” said Michael Zimmer, Buffalo Niagara Honor Flight. “Their dedication speaks volumes to how committed they are to our veterans, and we thank them for helping make sure this mission will be a day these veterans will remember for the rest of their lives.”
Buffalo Niagara Honor Flight is a volunteer organization entirely financed by fundraising efforts, private donations and sponsorships from the local business community. Each mission carries a cost of between $45,000 and $60,000.
Buffalo/Niagara Honor Flight is a regional hub of the National Honor Flight Network, an organization dedicated to providing veterans with honor and closure. Its mission is to fly WWII, Korean War and Vietnam War veterans to Washington, D.C., for a one-day, all-expenses-paid visit to their memorials that are dedicated to their service and sacrifice. Top priority is given to America’s most senior heroes – survivors of WWII and any veteran with a terminal illness who wishes to visit their memorial.