Video by Jim Lennon
NEW WINDSOR – Charles Gabrus, a 91-year-old World War II veteran
from Long Island, received a surprise welcome at Stewart Airport near
Newburgh on Saturday evening.
It was his first time on an airplane since he served as a waist gunner in WWII on a B-24 Pandemonium. Gabrus was part of the 8th Air Force of the 489th Bomber Group that was stationed in Halesworth, England.
The welcoming party was courtesy of Honor Flight of the Hudson Valley supporters and volunteers.
Gabrus arrived on the Jet Blue flight 0846 from Orlando at 6:12 p.m. and was greeted by a crowd of supporters chanting his name, “Charlie! Charlie.”
Gabrus said he was astounded by the crowd of supporters there and greatly appreciated the gesture.
“I tell you, I can’t believe it. I honestly, I can’t! Just wonderful; the people were so great. They treat me like I was… I don’t know,” he said with a chuckle. “I don’t know what else to say, just wonderful.”
Gabrus, center, surprised by hero’s welcome
Gabrus said he had been reluctant to travel by air since the war. He was offered to take a trip on the next Honor Flight and given the necessary paperwork to do so. He has never been on an Honor Flight, or even visited the WWII monument in Washington, DC, for that matter.
“No, no; it’s very touching,” he said. “That’s the reason I don’t go and haven’t gone. It brings back a lot of memories that I more or less would like to forget.”
Gabrus, who currently lives with his daughter in Montgomery, said he is considering going on the next Honor Flight.