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El Paso veterans receive donation to travel to Washington D.C. memorials

About two dozen World War II and Korean War veterans from the El Paso and Las Cruces, Texas, area will visit war memorials in Washington, D.C., in October — all paid for by local organizations.

The trip is being planned and paid for by Honor Flight of Southern New Mexico and El Paso, the local hub of the Honor Flight Network, a national nonprofit organization.

The Fort Bliss Officer and Civilian Spouses Association added to the cause Tuesday when it donated $4,000 to the local Honor Flight to help pay for four veterans.

Honor Flight's goal is to help "every single veteran in America, willing and able of getting on a plane or a bus, visit THEIR memorial," according to the group's website.

Jill Gomez, a local volunteer, said the men represent a portion of U.S. history that is honored by the memorials in the nation's capital. "It's important that they get to visit the Washington, D.C., memorials," she said.

For Luigi Pellicano, 93, it will be his first time in Washington, D.C., since he was 21 and World War II had just ended.

"It's been years since I've been to Washington (D.C.), but I've never seen the monuments," Pellicano said. "That's the great thing about (this trip). We will visit the memorials and get to remember our stories together."

Pellicano and fellow World War II veterans Dan Schulte, Alfredo Gomez and Daniel Montoya attended the donation made to the Honor Flight Network at the El Paso International Airport on Tuesday.

"We didn't expect (the donation), so to find out about this was exciting," said Montoya, 88, who fought in Okinawa, Japan, and also served time in Beijing. His rank was corporal.

Jill Gomez said El Paso was added to the Southern New Mexico regional hub in October.

"We are relatively new, so this was just great for us," she said. "Since October, we have just been trying to get the news out because we don't want any veteran to be left behind."

Honor Flight gives priority to World War II and Korean War veterans. Other veterans can also apply for the trip with terminally ill veterans given top priority.

Montoya said it has taken a long time to organize the trip, but he is ready to return to the nation's capital.

"I've been there before, but I'm going with (Honor Flight) for the first time," he said. "I'm looking forward to it."

Pellicano said he was grateful to the Fort Bliss Officer and Civilian Spouses Association because without them and other donors, the trip would not be possible. Pellicano took part in the D-Day invasion at Omaha Beach.

"I really wasn't noticing what cities we were in until after the battles," he said. He ended his military career as a private.

Other World War II or Korean War veterans who wish to visit the Washington, D.C., memorials are asked to call 449-4723 or 449-7700.

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