LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) – Tuesday is a big day for dozens of veterans who are getting their first chance since the pandemic began to visit the memorials erected in their honor. The trip is all thanks to a local program called Flight to Honor.
As the veterans got ready to make their way to Washington, D.C. Tuesday morning, you could tell there was excitement and a lot of pride for the United States.
Organizers of the Flight to Honor trip for 2020 say they felt they had enough time to prepare and for vaccines to roll out for the group of veterans. Those coming on the trip are vaccinated or already had COVID-19.
The Flight to Honor program is local to Polk County – similar to the Honor Flight national program. This is the sixth trip for Flight to Honor and sadly, because of the pandemic, not everyone on the original manifest will be able to make it Tuesday.
“The unfortunate thing is nine of those that were scheduled to go last year have passed away, and another is terminally ill. It’s important that we are able to do this and give these people, many of whom have never been to Washington or have never had the opportunity to visit the memorials, the opportunity to do that,” said Gary Clark with Flight to Honor.
A total of 86 veterans, 82 guardians, and some staff for Flight to Honor boarded the plane early Tuesday morning. Most in the group are Vietnam War veterans and some are veterans of the Korean War, but all of them are family.
“Enjoy this camaraderie. It’s always like a family. Everywhere we go, as long as you know you’ve got some veterans, you’re just one of the members of a family,” Vietnam War veteran Greg Robinson said.
“It was very disappointing so I didn’t think that we’d ever get to do this, so, but I was really surprised this year. We’re here and we’re doing it now,” Navy veteran Harold Breezee said.
Organizers felt comfortable today with safety protocols in place since the veterans are vaccinated or have had the virus and most of the trip will be out in the open air.