By John Purcell
First Posted: Wednesday, March 12, 2014 -8 p.m.
#DELMAR — After a couple years of relative inactivity, the area’s Patriot Flight program is readying to take World War II veterans to Washington, D.C., and commemorate D-Day’s 70th anniversary.
Bill Peak, a Brunswick resident and WWII veteran, founded the local Patriot Flight program in 2007 covering several counties in the Capital District. Peak said the idea to start up the program was spurred after reading about a local state Assembly member traveling to the National World War II Memorial. Peak decided he should take the trip and eventually found out about Honor Flights taking veterans to the memorial honoring their service.
“I didn’t want to go alone, so I thought I’ll take some veterans with me,” Peak said. “I went to a seminar in Washington, and I was the only WWII veteran that started an Honor Flight hub.”
Many WWII veterans passed away before the memorial opened in 2004, but Peak was determined to help as many fellow veterans get to the memorial as he could. Organizing and running the Patriot Flight program isn’t an easy feat, though, and Peak, an 89-year-old, stopped running it around two years ago due to health problems.
Frank DeSorbo, founder and president of the D-Day Revisited Association, discovered the area Patriot Flight program wasn’t active anymore and wanted to find out what happened. DeSorbo, of Delmar, ended up talking with Peak for three and a half hours one day and decided he wanted to help relaunch the program.
“I sit back and I think these guys are living history,” DeSorbo said. “I watch the Military Channel a lot and read the articles in the newspaper, and they deserve the recognition while they are here.”
DeSorbo was already planning the fourth annual D-Day Recognition & Remembrance Day to be held June 1 and said the Patriot Flight this year will have the theme “D-Day goes to D.C.”
There are already at least eight veterans who stormed the beaches of Normandy, France, on June 6, 1944, who are planning to take the Patriot Flight on May 10, DeSorbo said. There are a total of 35 veterans that submitted applications for the flight and another 16 veterans the group has contacted. He said the trip would probably include around 50 veterans.
The most time-consuming aspect of the program is fundraising, which DeSorbo said is a “24/7” effort.
Peak worked in cryptography during the war and said he felt “terribly guilty” that he never stepped foot overseas. He said his daughter reassured him he was doing what he was supposed to do and played his own role in the war.
“It was my turn to pay them back, and that was really the motivating factor in this whole thing,” Peak said. “I felt obligated to help someone that couldn’t get down there.”
Peak said he’s losing his eyesight and is limited in his driving, but he has helped out the program recently through making calls from his home.
“I can do a lot on the telephone, but I just can’t drive,” Peak said.
Frank DeSorbo of Delmar is the new leader of Patriot Flight, an all-volunteer local community group that gives World War II veterans a free trip to their memorial in Washington, D.C.
DeSorbo replaces Ron Lewis of Watervliet, president of New York Chapter 5 of Rolling Thunder, a group of motorcyclists who advocate for veterans.
The World War II Memorial, which opened in 2004, honors the 16 million men and women who served in the U.S. armed forces, the more than 400,000 who died, and all who supported the war effort from home.
Patriot Flight has given more than 500 veterans one-day excursions since 2008. The nonprofit organization also provides each veteran with a backpack, a memorial polo shirt, lunch and dinner.
Patriot Flight is based in Colonie and is an affiliate of the National Honor Flight Network.
DeSorbo has launched a $20,000 drive to send more than 50 veterans on a May 10 pilgrimage to the memorial. Each veteran will have a guardian. The cost for sending each veteran is approximately $500, DeSorbo said.
Anyone can escort a veteran. Nurses, medical professionals and EMTs are welcome to escort a veteran who is disabled or has other medical issues. Duties include assisting, escorting or pushing a wheelchair.
Each guardian pays his or her own way, about $350.
The group will be flown by Southwest Airlines from Albany International Airport in Colonie to Baltimore-Washington International Airport and then taken by charter buses to the memorial. The group will also visit other sites before returning to Albany.
DeSorbo, a retired public school administrator, has led a highly successful D-Day Revisited Association that honors veterans of the Normandy landings that began on June 6, 1944. The first D-Day Recognition and Remembrance Day was held in 2011 in Latham.
William Peat, a World War II veteran, founded Patriot Flight in 2007.
To contribute, make check payable to Patriot Flight and mail it to Patriot Flight, Box 190, Delmar, NY 12054. Donations are tax deductible; Patriot Flight is a federal 501 (c) (3) organization.
For information and applications, go to patriotflight.com, DeSorbo at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at 439-9265, 253-7606, contact Marge Pecoroni at email@example.com, or