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Honor Flight brought 81 veterans to Washington

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By ELIOT KLEINBERG | The Palm Beach Post, Fla. | Published: April 17, 2019

(Tribune News Service) — When Seymour "Sy" Reis was a medic, ferrying injured soldiers back from Europe, he wrote numerous love letters to his wife. When she died in 2017, after 70 years of marriage, her daughter found the box. Since then, Mona Reis has been reading the missives back to her father.

"I've been reading them a few at a time," Reis, founder and leader for the Presidential Women's Center, said April 8.

On Saturday, Sy Reis, now 96, joined 80 other veterans on the year's first local Honor Flight.

Stuart-based Southeast Honor Flight conducts four of the special flights each year, taking veterans to Washington to visit memorials. Since 2008, it has taken more than 2,650 veterans from Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie, Okeechobee and Indian River counties free of charge.

Honor Flights initially were for World War II veterans, then expanded to Korean War veterans. Saturday's flight marked the second time the group has gone to its list of Vietnam veterans; the first was in September. A few Vietnam vets have flown in special cases, such as one who was dying of cancer.

Saturday's contingent was comprised of 13 from World War II, 60 from the Korean War and eight from the Vietnam War. The breakdown by branch: Army, 42; Navy, 13; Air Force, 22; and Marine Corps, four. Wartime duties ranged from land surveyor to infantry gunner to helicopter pilot. One veteran from World War II and one from Korea were prisoners of war.

Sy Reis, who now lives at a Palm Beach County assisted living center, didn't see combat in World War II – bad eyesight – but he arrived in Europe in time to see plenty of the carnage the war had left.

"Devastating," he said. He recalled seeing destroyed homes and seeing the catastrophic flooding caused when German troops fleeing the Netherlands opened dikes in Rotterdam.

Reis then served wounded soldiers coming back from Europe aboard the Queen Mary and other ocean liners.

The family moved to Florida in the late 1950s, and Reis was involved in real estate development, working as marketing and sales director for Gulf American for the outfit that developed, among other communities, Cape Coral, near Fort Myers.

Reis said he did not know his wife had saved his letters.

"I had no idea. It was very touching," he said.

The next flight for Southeast Florida Honor Flight, one of nine in Florida and more than 130 such groups nationwide, is May 11.

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