BROOKSVILLE, Fla. (WFLA) — It was an emotional day as a Tampa Bay area veteran hit the skies on a ‘Dream Flight’ Tuesday.
“I’m ready if you are,” Joseph Fik said to the pilot.
99-year-old Fik was all smiles aboard the restored vintage biplane. The special passenger is a World War II veteran.
“I was in Germany. I was infantry,” Fik said.
The special flight took off from Brooksville Airport Tuesday morning.
Pilot Darryl Smith took Fik on the 20-minute flight. For Smith, who is also a veteran, and a former fighter pilot, the mission is personal.
“My wife and I, being veterans, we know what it is like to serve our country. These folks really served our country in a very very difficult war,” said Smith.
Smith’s nonprofit organization Dream Flights, donated the flight.
It’s the group’s way of saying thanks to veterans all across the country.
“We need to honor them while we still have them, and that’s why we’re focusing right now on Operation September Freedom, were taking up only World War II veterans,” Smith said.
For Fik, who lives in an assisted living facility, it’s a bright spot during the pandemic that has kept him locked inside.
“It’s really thrilling because he’s been through a lot, especially in the last 18 months, coming from actually being locked in his room for about four months,” said his daughter Marcy Sanders.
It’s a trip his daughter says he will surely never forget.
“It just warms my heart, and I know he really appreciates it,” said Sanders.
“It’s a different view,” Fik said after he landed. “Fantastic. I loved it. It was everything I expected.”
Since 2011, Dream Flights’ has honored more than 4,200 seniors and veterans with these historic trips.