Southeast Florida Honor Flight is set to pay tribute to 35 World War II veterans and 45 Korean War veterans on Saturday, April 8 by flying them to Washington, D.C., for the day to visit the memorials created in their honor.
For the first time, Honor Flight welcomes the participation of 30 members of the Florida State Society Daughters of the American Revolution, who will be acting as guardians for 30 veterans. The 30 patriotic volunteers, ages 19 to 65, represent many of Florida’s 105 local DAR chapters, including junior members under the age of 36 and four members from the Sons of the American Revolution.
This weekend’s Honor Flight is the first of four regularly scheduled flights per year for Southeast Florida Honor Flight and as always, begins very early with veterans and guardians arriving at Palm Beach International Airport at 4 a.m. After checking in and boarding the chartered American Airlines Airbus 321, the flight arrives at Reagan National Airport to a welcoming crowd cheering the arriving veterans. With a police escort throughout the day, four motor coaches will transport the group to visit the U.S. Marine Memorial (Iwo Jima), Arlington National Cemetery for the Changing of the Guard Ceremony, the World War II Memorial and the Korean War Memorial.
The contingent to fly to Washington, D.C., on the first 2017 trip is comprised of veterans from four military branches: U.S. Marines (6), U.S. Air Force/Army Air Corps (16), U.S. Navy (21) and U.S. Army (36). Just a few of the wartime positions represented are radar builder, combat medic, bar rifleman, aerial radio operator, B-25 gunner, B-4 navigator and flight instructor. Many of these brave men experienced combat throughout Europe and Asia, and many participated in major battles.
The public is invited to attend “Operation Homecoming” at Palm Beach International Airport, the evening of April 8 to welcome home the veterans.
Operation Homecoming is always an emotional event for both the veterans and the crowd. Hundreds of people from the local community, including members of the military, community and civic groups, family and friends, gather in the airport, awaiting the veterans’ arrival to give them a true welcome home, a welcome that many never received years ago. Between cheering well-wishers, emotional family and friends, and thankful citizens, the veterans receive hundreds of grateful handshakes, topping off a day that most veterans say is one of the best days of their lives.
Signs of thanks, flags, cheers and handshakes are encouraged. Operation Homecoming takes place at Palm Beach International Airport, Level 2, Concourse A/B. The Honor Flight will arrive at PBIA at 7:20 p.m. Early arrival is recommended. Look out for professional cheers coming from a few Dolphins Cheerleaders who will be in attendance to also welcome the veterans home.
Southeast Florida Honor Flight relies on word of mouth, public education via presentations and civic and veteran groups to find WWII and Korean War veterans to sign up for Honor Flights. If you are, or if you know of a veteran who would like to take an Honor Flight, and has not already done so, call 1-855-FLYAVET (855) 359-2838 or fill out the veteran application online at www.honorflightsefl.org.
ABOVE: Korean War vet John Hochella of Loxahatchee with guardian.