Beatrice Thayer, who served in the Army during World War II and later in the Nevada Army National Guard, is visiting the National World War II Museum in New Orleans in a trip sponsored by the Gary Sinise Foundation. She and other veterans left Wednesday morning from the Reno-Tahoe International Airport.
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Local veterans accompanied by high-school students from Bishop Manogue High School departed Reno Wednesday morning to New Orleans where they’ll spend the next two days at the National World War II museum.
Many of the 17 veterans, several who live in Carson City, served either during World War II or in Korea.
The veterans, their guardians and students are guests of the Gary Sinise Foundation and American Airlines. In 2015, the foundation started to bring veterans to the museum, which opened in 2000. Congress designated the museum in 2004 as the National WWII Museum, which is affiliated with the Smithsonian Institute.
Steve Ranson / Nevada News Group
Guardian Steve Ward, right, pushes World War II veteran James Climo to the departure gate. Climo and other veterans left Wednesday morning from the Reno-Tahoe International Airport to the National World War II Museum in New Orleans.
Honor Flight Nevada assisted in identifying local veterans for this trip to the National WWII Museum.
Michael Schlitz, an Iraq War veteran, is an ambassador with the Gary Sinise Foundation, which was founded in 2011. Sinise has starred in numerous films and collaborated with Tom Hanks in “Forrest Gump,” “Apollo 13” and “The Green Mile.” He also starred in the television program “CSI: New York.” Sinise and his Lt. Dan Band appeared earlier this year at Naval Air Station Fallon.
“Gary’s passion is to give back to the veteran community and to support them,” Schlitz said before the flight left Reno.
Schlitz said the foundation also supports veterans’ families and first responders.
Schlitz, who was medically retired as a sergeant first class from the Army in 2010, was severely injured and burned in a roadside bomb in Iraq in 2007. According to Schlitz, the veterans and students will remember their trip to New Orleans for a long time.
“The whole museum is a whole “ooh and awe” moment for these veterans,” he said. “They have planes hanging from the ceilings. They have the U-boats.”
Schlitz said the students, who are each paired with a veteran. will learn more about military missions first-hand from the veterans.
“They will eat dinner (with the veterans), go through the museum, sit on the plane and the bus. It’s really a great opportunity with them,” Schlitz said.
The students received an early morning taste of what they will encounter during the trip. A bagpiper from the Sinise Foundation and a color guard from the Nevada Air National Guard led the veterans to their gate.
Randy Stillinger, a U.S. Army reservist, is also manager of Military and Veteran Issues for American Airlines.
Steve Ranson / Nevada News Group
Veterans, many of them who served during World War II, left Wednesday morning to the National World War II Museum in New Orleans.
“American Airlines is proud to be in Reno today providing a special charter flight for these World War II veterans and for some high school students to the World War II museum in New Orleans,” he said. “It is a great experience; it’s a three-day field trip for these students for they not only get to see the museum but meet with some of the history-makers who were there."
Stillinger said he considers it an honor to be part of this mission which honors the generation that served during World War II and in Korea.
“We’re glad our flight attendants and pilots have donated their time for this special mission,” Stillinger said, adding American Airlines donates the jet for the flight to New Orleans. “This means a lot to our company. We have American on the side of our airplane and the red white and blue on our tails, so if we are not doing this — supporting the men and women who served our country — we’re not living up to our name.”