Honor Flight from Florida on Saturday will feature mostly Vietnam veterans

By ELIOT KLEINBERG | The Palm Beach (Fla.) Post | Published: May 7, 2019

(Tribune News Service) — For the first time, the bulk of veterans on an Honor Flight will be from the Vietnam War.

Saturday's flight, the second of 2019, will feature just seven veterans from World War II, 16 from the Korean War and 59 from Vietnam, the group said.

"It is a day of appreciation and respect that these veterans unfortunately never received upon return home from that war," Honor Flight said in an advisory.

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 started after the World War II Memorial was finished in 2004, about six decades after the war. The idea was to take veterans to the monument who either were too frail or didn't have the financial means to go on their own.

Early flights contained all World War II veterans. But as age took its toll, the group expanded to Korean War veterans. A few Vietnam vets have flown in special cases, such as one who was dying of cancer. But this is just the third time — the others were in September and April — that the group has gone to its list of Vietnam veterans. The April flight comprised 13 from World War II, 60 from the Korean War and eight from Vietnam.

The 82 veterans flying on Saturday include 48 from the Army, 20 Navy, Eight Air Force, five Marines and one Coast Guard. Wartime positions represented include jet-engine mechanic, helicopter pilot, physician and military police. They served statewide or at events such as D-Day and the Tet Offensive. One veteran was shot and captured at the Battle of the Bulge and escaped a POW camp after 4½ months.

The public is encouraged to welcome veterans Saturday when Honor Flight returns to Palm Beach International Airport. The flight is set to arrive about 8:20 p.m. People should arrive early at Level 2, Concourse A/B, and bring signs, flags, and balloons.

The last two Honor Flights of 2019 are Sept. 21 and Nov. 2.

Southeast Florida Honor Flight is one of nine in Florida and more than 130 such groups nationwide. The group always seeks the public's help to find veterans who qualify and haven't yet taken an honor flight. Honor Flight also seeks volunteers to escort veterans. To learn more about the honor flights, or to volunteer as an escort or make a donation, call 855-FLYAVET (855-359-2838) or visit www.honorflightsefl.

©2019 The Palm Beach Post (West Palm Beach, Fla.)

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