Tears in my eyes

Tony Pirello, who served his country during the Korean War, was overwhelmed with the gratitude he received during Honor Flight Chicago’s 77th flight to Washington, D.C., a day-long journey to thank veterans for their sacrifice. The Chicago resident served in the U.S. Army from 1953 to 1955 as a small-arms instructor and attended the U.S. Army Engineer School.

He credits the hundreds of volunteers for ensuring a successful trip.

“Your entire staff of volunteers were so outstanding and considerate; I felt comfortable and thrilled traveling with other vets,” Pirello said. “It was a long, wonderful day, and the reception in Washington and Chicago brought tears to my eyes.”

Pirello said there were many highlights to his trip, including spending the day with his Guardian who escorted him through D.C. “Susan McGinnis was amazing,” he said. Other impressive moments included the visit to the Korean War Memorial and the “enormous” Welcome Home reception at Midway Airport.

“To see all the people who were there — both young and old — to thank us for our service, including Gov. Rauner,” Pirello said. “The marching bands, the cheers, it made me feel like I was a special hero.”

Pirello now tells other veterans about the Honor Flight Chicago experience and encourages them to apply as soon as possible. “I would tell them I had a wonderful and emotional experience.

He never sought acknowledgment for his service but appreciates the recognition from all people who made the day so meaningful.

“Since the Korean ‘Forgotten’ War ended 64 years ago, us vets were taken for granted and also ‘forgotten,’” Pirello said. “But thanks to Honor Flight Chicago’s mission, I and the other vets who were on the flight do now feel recognized for our service to our country with honor and dignity. I thank you all, and am grateful I was able to make the trip.”