Honor Flight Trip Springs Out Of Community & Senior Center Friendship

by Melissa Blosser, Douglas County Community Relations · 3 min read

GARDNERVILLE, Nev. — Sometimes life’s grandest adventures can happen by chance.

For Greg Silvestro and John and Gale Phillips, it was a hat and a chance crossing of paths at the Douglas County Community and Senior Center that will land Greg and John in Washington, D.C., in September of 2017.

Enrolling Douglas County residents with a membership at the community and senior center is part of Greg Silvestro’s daily routine as a County employee.

When John and Gale Phillips signed up in September of 2016, Silvestro was the man at the desk.

He quickly struck up a friendship with the elderly couple and would often spend time with them during their visits at the center. Silvestro noticed Phillips’ World War II hat and inquired about it, learning quickly that Phillips had served in the war.

“I had seen the honor flight article in the newspaper and I asked John if he had ever done the honor flight,” Silvestro said. “John said, ‘No, I’m 94 and I should go, I really should go.’ I said, ‘Why don’t I get you the paperwork for it?'”

The Honor Flight Network is a non-profit organization created and run solely by volunteers to honor America’s veterans for all their sacrifices. There are several chapters all over the nation with two in Nevada — one in Northern and one in Southern Nevada. The flights transport the veterans to Washington, D.C. to visit and reflect at the memorials there.

Top priority is given to the senior veterans – World War II survivors, along with those other veterans who may be terminally ill.

Silvestro retrieved the paperwork for John and Gale and explained to the couple that John would need a guardian and that the guardian would have to be someone other than a spouse.

“I told them if they were in a bind, I would be honored to go with them,” said Silvestro. “To my surprise, about a week later they came back and said they wanted me to go with John and Gale would be staying home.”

According to the Nevada Honor Flight Website, Guardians play a significant role on every trip by ensuring the every Veteran has a safe and memorable experience. Guardian duties include physically assisting Veterans to the airport, hotel and at the memorials.

“It will be fast and very little sleep I assume,” said John Phillips. “Greg is going to be pushing me around a lot and doing all the work.”

“Many people had asked us about the honor flight and I had gotten the application together, but it was really Greg who helped us,” said Gale Phillips.

John Phillips volunteered to serve in the military during World War II and worked on Liberty Ships as a welder.

“Liberty ship” was the name given to the EC2 type ship designed for “Emergency” construction by the United States Maritime Commission in World War II.

“I felt like I had to do it,” said John. “I’m happy that I served and if I had to do it again, I would.”

Greg Silvestro and John Phillips. Photo by Melissa Blosser

John and Greg will spend three days together leaving on Friday night and flying out of Reno to Baltimore. From there, they’ll visit the World War II Memorial, Korean Memorial, Vietnam Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial and the Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C. Then they’ll return home Sunday.

“I’m looking forward to meeting all the other veterans, but I know the guardians are most important,” said John.

John and Gale are busy now packing and planning for the trip and Greg and John will receive their full itinerary on September 10, 2017. Until then, they continue to carry on their weekly routine at the Community and Senior Center and visit with Greg.

“If it weren’t for the Community and Senior Center, and Greg, John would not be going,” said Gale “This place services so many different generations and we are all here together, it really brings everyone in the community together.”

For more information on the Nevada Honor Flight visit www.honorflightnv.org.

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