A Special Welcome Home Celebration from Mission 35

Honor Flight of West Central Florida is a non-profit organization, transporting Veterans to Washington D.C. FREE OF CHARGE to visit the memorials dedicated to honor their service and sacrifice. 8 of our residents have had the opportunity to embark on such a journey in 2018. Veteran Phil Szemela was set to go, but then was unable due to personal issues. Phil celebrated his 98th Birthday in August and served in WWII in the Naval-Airforce. With the help of Honor Flights President, April Dennis Currie and organizer Beverly Frey, we were able to make a surprise celebration for Veteran Szemela. Without his knowing, we spoke to his wife and daughter and they were both supportive of the special event. We had him attend with us as we were simply going to the Welcome Home Celebration, but the bus pulled off unexpectedly and we took Veteran Szemela off the bus, gave him a brand new Veteran Shirt and Honor Flight hat, and as we waited he opened his “Mail Call” letters from people all around the country, including from his family. Once it was time, we had Veteran Szemela stand at the front of the brigade to lead the way of the 75+ veterans coming home from Washington D.C. He proudly took on his final mission and saluted his fellow active duty military and fellow veterans and went on to shake the hands of the hundreds of attendees there to give our veterans the welcome home they never received. It was beyond beautiful. There was hardly a moment he was not smiling! When we turned the corner from the long hall where more people awaited us, including residents and associates from The Fountains, he proudly found his wife, who had tears in her eyes, and they shared such a dear kiss, the whole crowd went wild! He met many people along the way, and even got his photo taken with the infamous Bomber Girls, and received a special book of Washington’s landmarks. It’s moments like this that we are that much more grateful to organizations like this, that make our veterans feel special and honored, just as they should each and every day.

To read more about the Honor Flight of West Central Florida, click here.

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