LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) — A Tampa Bay veteran is celebrating his 103rd birthday on a trip of a lifetime.
Herman Jenkins served in World War II, and is among the nearly 200 veterans heading from Lakeland Linder Airport to Washington, D.C. on an Honor Flight to tour the war memorials dedicated to their service and sacrifice.
Jenkins says the trip is extra special for him because he is celebrating his birthday.
“I’m excited about having the chance to see the things that I would have like to seen some years ago,” he told News Channel 8.
Rep. Scott Franklin (R-Lakeland) helped organize the sendoff and was there at the airport Tuesday morning.
“It was a good surprise birthday he set up for me,” Jenkins said.
Nearly 200 veterans gathered at the gate before the flight to share their experiences and memories. While they are excited to leave for DC, they say emotions will be intense when they see some of their friends and family’s names being memorialized for the first time in person.
Since 2005, the Honor Flight Network has flown more than 250,000 veterans to DC from 45 states and 136 regional hubs, free of charge. Family members and guardians can accompany them at their own expense.
Honor Flight Central Florida coordinates flights for Tampa Bay veterans.
“I’m very fortunate. Very lucky very blessed, some veterans aren’t able to do that I’m glad to have the opportunity,” said Gerald Miklavcic, a retired veteran who was on the Honor Flight.