WEST PALM BEACH — Just a week before Veterans’ Day, Palm Beach International Airport will be the place to be as Southeast Florida Honor Flight returns from its final Honor Flight mission of the 2022 season. At 8:20 p.m. on Nov. 5, 79 veterans will be returning from a full day of being honored and celebrated in Washington, D.C., courtesy of Southeast Florida Honor Flight. This fourth, final flight 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. Traveling on this final flight of 2022 will be 104 year-old Stephen Blauvelt, Jr., a World War II veteran who is looking forward to seeing the memorials built to honor him and his fellow veterans.
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.
Also among the veterans on the November 5 Honor Flight, we are honored to have Army veteran Laurence Williams, now a Wellington resident who was awarded the Bronze Star Medal with Valor in Vietnam, the Valorous Unit Award, the Army Superior Unit Award and the Vietnam Civil Actions Unit Award before exiting the service as a Command Sergeant Major (E-9). Among his many service memories are a face-to-face confrontation with a North Korean officer at Panmunjom and his graduation as a US Army Ranger. After serving as a Platoon Sergeant and Operations and Intelligence Sergeant in the First Ranger Battalion. He was the First Sergeant at the Joint Security Area in Panmunjom and the Ranger Career Advisor for the 75th Ranger Regiment at the Military Personnel Center in Alexandria, Virginia. Despite suffering a friendly fire headwound in 1969, Williams continued his service, racking up 23 years of total service in the military before going on to serve as a City of Savannah, Georgia Police officer, a Department of Defense Police Officer at Walter Reed, and a Pentagon Police Directorate Police Officer.
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, November 5th 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.