WEST PALM BEACH — On Saturday, Sept. 17, Palm Beach International Airport will be the place to be as Southeast Florida Honor Flight returns from its second Honor Flight mission of the 2022 season. At 8:20 p.m., veterans will be returning from a full day of being honored and celebrated in Washington, D.C., courtesy of Southeast Florida Honor Flight. This third of four flights in 2022 includes veterans from WWII, the Korean War, and Vietnam War. Every veteran on the flight has stories to share and memories – some they haven’t thought of in decades, and some they have never shared with anyone. During an Honor Flight mission, veterans on the trip are flown at no cost to Washington, DC, where they are served throughout the day by volunteer guardians who have been trained to ensure the safety and enjoyment of each hero veteran flying and have paid for their own flight.
As in the past, a crowd of individuals will gather at Palm Beach International Airport to welcome the veterans home from their epic journey and to honor them for their brave and selfless service to our country. Operation Homecoming, which features music, flags, loads of laughter, and a chance to share the memory of a lifetime with American heroes, is free and open to the public.
Even if you don’t know anyone on the flight, you will find friends and neighbors in the crowd, and you’ll have a chance to cheer the veterans through the final steps of the day most say they remember as second only to their weddings and births of their children. Well-wishers are encouraged to bring signs, flags, and smiles to share with the veterans and guardians as they return, and you are guaranteed to walk away from the event with a lump in your throat, a smile on your face, and gratitude and pride in your heart for these humble heroes you’ve helped welcome home. Remember, some of these veterans never had the welcome home they so deserve. We ask you to help us welcome them home after their Honor Flight mission.
On this flight, we are honored to be sharing the day with Stuart resident, Patricia Breeding. Lt. Colonel Patricia Breeding enlisted in the US Marine Corps, and after completing basic training at Quantico and at the tender age of 21, she was in Officer Candidate School in 1966. She worked as a computer officer at Camp LeJeune, and then at Fourth Marine Division Headquarter in Camp Pendleton. During her 22-year tenure with the Marines, Breeding spent time in Okinawa in the 1970s and worked as a Recruiting Officer in Boston, Massachusetts. Though Breeding comes from a family of service (her dad served in the US Navy during World War II, and a variety of cousins also served our country in WWII and prior), she says that recruiting on campuses during a time of heavy anti-war sentiment and protests was extremely challenging She recalls being cursed and spat at, in addition to having protestors throw paint on her and pound on the vehicle she was in repeatedly. Because of those experiences – both good and bad - and the opportunities being a woman in the armed forces offered, Breeding chose to focus her post-service education on mental health and working with the homeless and veterans. How wonderful it would be for Breeding to come home to an airport filled with people who celebrate her service to our country.
If you, your neighbors, your church or social group, or family and friends are interested in being part of something special, please mark your calendars now for Saturday, Sept. 17 at 8:20 p.m. at Palm Beach International Airport. Volunteers from the ground crew will direct you on where to go, but be ready for a heartwarming homecoming for some very special veterans and volunteers. To learn more about Southeast Florida Honor Flight and how you can become involved or to donate to the next flight, please visit www.honorflightsefl.org today.