WEST PALM BEACH — On Saturday, September 16, Southeast Florida Honor Flight volunteers will be escorting a full load of veterans on the free trip of a lifetime as the second Honor Flight of 2023 takes off for a day-long trip to Washington, D.C. According to Eric Stein, who handles logistics for Southeast Florida Honor Flight, “The September flight is likely to be our last flight with World War II Veterans. When our hub flew its first flight in 2009, we knew we were racing the clock. There are still some WWII Veterans out there, and we haven’t given up getting them aboard. We hope to give a flight opportunity to all of them.” Even if you’re not on the flight as a veteran or volunteer guardian, you can help welcome the veterans home after a very moving day in Washington, DC..
At 8:20 p.m., the veterans, their volunteer guardians, and volunteer staff will be returning from a full day of being honored and celebrated in Washington, D.C., courtesy of Southeast Florida Honor Flight. 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. Unlike WWII and the Korean War, when veterans returned home from serving our country in the Vietnam War, instead of being welcomed and applauded, many were spat upon, cursed, and treated with hate. It may be decades later, but it won’t cost you a thing to help heal their spirits and give them the welcome home they truly deserve.
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.
If you, your neighbors, your church or social group, or family and friends are interested in being part of something special, please plan to join us Saturday, September 16 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 as a volunteer or to donate to the next flight, please visit www.honorflightsefl.org today.