SWFL Honor Flight to honor 99 veterans on their Honor Flight April 16

Posted 3/19/24

SWFL Honor Flight’s mission is to “Safely transport Veterans to Washington DC to be honored...

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SWFL Honor Flight to honor 99 veterans on their Honor Flight April 16


PUNTA GORDA — Naomi Copeland, president of Southwest Florida Honor Flight (SWFL Honor Flight) is pleased to announce the first honor flight of 2024 scheduled for Tuesday, April 16, 2024 from Punta Gorda Airport (PGD).

Most recently, on Oct. 10, 2023, the hub (part of Honor Flight Network) added a second annual flight and few 97 Veterans, 37 of whom were female! This is the first time in 14 years that there has been more than one flight annually known as “missions."

Copeland indicated that the original intention for the addition of this Fall flight was to be an all-female veteran mission. However, there haven’t been enough female veteran applications received to fill an entire flight so the mission will include men who have served on the flight as well.

SWFL Honor Flight’s mission is to “Safely transport Veterans to Washington DC to be honored at their memorials and receive the welcome home they deserve” and serves Veteran’s from Charlotte, DeSoto, Hardee, Hendry, Highlands and Sarasota counties with the opportunity for what has been described as “the trip of a lifetime."

Veterans fly one time on their honored flight at no cost. Ninety-seven year old WWII Veteran, A. “Skip” Mansfield a veteran from the recent flight said that “honor flight day was a most amazing day” and was thankful for the many individuals who helped make it happen.

According to Copeland, the hub is one of 10 Honor Flight Network Hubs in the state of Florida. They raise all of their funds locally through the generosity of the community including individuals, organizations and hundreds of volunteers. and have flown over 2,100 Veterans since 2008.

Each veteran is paired with a volunteer Guardian who pays for a portion of the trip's expenses that varies depending upon fundraising efforts each trip. Guardians must be 18 years of age and able to handle the rigors of the day which includes walking and possibly pushing a veteran who may be in a wheelchair, Copeland said. Past Guardians have volunteered for the day thinking they were going to aid a veteran who might have physical needs to be able to go on their honored flight. These guardians have instead participated in a day beyond their imagination, sharing stories, tears and smiles throughout the day.

Nancy Ristic and her husband John who have both served as Guardians on three previous SWFL Honor Flights stated that the recent May 2, 2023, flight was “the best one we have experienced. All of the vets and Guardians were so friendly, accommodating to all and we all worked together so nicely.” Ristic also noted that the hard work put forth by the Hub leadership under the direction of Copeland was evident of the hard work and hundreds of hours that is required to fill a flight. “We are proud to be a part of SWFL Honor Flight program, now more than ever," Nancy Ristic wrote.

Everett Langhans a US Navy veteran from the Vietnam era wrote: “it was a great privilege to be a veteran aboard the May 2, 2023, Honor Flight. When I applied for a seat, I had some ideas about how the experience might play out, but I could never have known what a marvel of organization I would ultimately witness nor could I have had any notion as to the immense level of dedication that the people who were to make it all come together hold in their hearts for their mission - to demonstrate to every veteran aboard that their individual service to the nations military efforts, where ever, when ever and in whatever capacity, was of vital necessity to the nurturing and protection of freedom. And that it is a service that is held close and deeply cherished in the hearts of Americans of every age, every race, religion, or political persuasion."

Langhans went on to say “for today, I am grateful beyond my capacity to adequately express that I have finally found my way home following along the path that SWFL Honor Flight graciously and lovingly illuminated for me. I am equally grateful for the throng of humanity that met me at the door. Passing through that gauntlet of love, people reaching out on both sides to touch me or shake my hand repeating “thank you” and “welcome home” did something to me inside, something profound.”

If you know of a veteran who has not been on an honor flight, please visit www.swflhonorflight.org to download or complete an application. Copeland said that veterans will be confirmed for their honor flight with priority given to WWII and Korean vets as well as those with a terminally ill diagnosis, then by date application received. Currently the hub has a small waitlist. Guardian applications can also be found at the same website.

Copeland also stated that past Veterans and Guardians, known as “Ambassadors” love meeting and talking about Honor Flight at any organization that is interested in learning more about honor flight, email: swflhonorflight@gmail.com to learn more. “Honor Flight is really a word of mouth, kind of thing,” board member Lynn Warner said, “and it spreads everywhere. One veteran experiences the day of a lifetime, receive the appreciation they deserve and they can’t stop talking about it. They tell another veteran friend who tells another and another. It is our privilege to honor those who have worn the clothing of our nation and show them the appreciation they deserve.”

The hub holds monthly business meetings, the fourth Wednesday of each month at 7 p.m. at the Punta Gorda Public Safety building, 1410 Tamiami, Punta Gorda and also via zoom and the public is invited to attend. Follow the hub on social media @swflhonorflight on Facebook and Instagram for the most up-to-date information and www.swflhonorflight.org.

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