Welcome Home! Honor Flight South Florida Veterans Honored

By Beverly Perkins

Honor Flight South Florida is always looking for World War II Veterans in Broward, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach and Monroe counties to participate in “Operation One Last Mission”. This program takes veterans to Washington, DC on a charter flight at designated times during the year, and is free of charge to those nominated.

The non-profit charity wants to thank and pay tribute to as many heroes, especially World War II (WWII) veterans, by honoring and remembering them. The fully escorted trip recently returned from one of their fall flights.

One lucky recipient of the 140 veterans that were chosen was Hallandale resident Sumner (Shamai) Taplin. The World War II veteran was guided by a Vietnam vet on the 24-hour journey. Besides the obvious trip highlights, another is the infamous “mail call”. On the plane, all participants had their names called individually, and letters were distributed from family, friends, and students from around the state. Taplin was beyond ecstatic to be the recipient of 300 letters from his loved ones.

The mission included round-trip airfare, deluxe bus transportation, meals, souvenir t-shirts and other amenities to travel comfortably. Disabled Veterans are also welcome. Top priority is given to the most senior patriots to make sure they have an opportunity to take part of this program.

This experience included visits to the memorials built to honor their service and sacrifice. An outstanding moment of every trip is the visit to the World War II Memorial. In addition, each trip includes a stop at the Marine Corps Iwo Jima Memorial, and Arlington National Cemetery where one can see the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns.

Past Honor Flights have included stops at the Lincoln Memorial, the Korean War Memorial, the Vietnam War Memorial, the Air Force Memorial, and even the Pentagon 9/11 Memorial.

The group was escorted through the city by a team of well-trained volunteers and a police motorcade. In addition, each veteran was accompanied by an assigned guardian who pays their way to be a part of the remarkable experience.
Upon their arrival at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, a special welcome parade with bagpipes, patriotic music, and plenty of loved ones waving American flags greeted the WWII and Korean veterans as they were pushed in wheelchairs by Vietnam veterans.

Hollywood resident Joyce Bak said, “Welcome home!” to a Vietnam vet, and with tears in his eyes he said, “I have been waiting 40 years to hear that.”

Veterans are encouraged to register for flights at
www.honorflightsouthflorida.org or by calling 855-359-1838. Honor Flight South Florida, Inc. (HFSF) is a federal non-profit 501(c)(3) charity, 100% all-volunteer organization dedicated solely to honoring Veterans in Broward, Dade, and Monroe counties. Every donation received goes toward honoring and flying the Veterans to Washington DC.