Department of Florida

Veterans Honored With Virtual Flight

screen-shot-2016-11-04-at-4-09-28-pm

WINTER HAVEN — Pearl Harbor survivor Homer Allem couldn’t go on the most recent Flight to Honor for veterans because of doctor’s orders.

But Saturday morning thanks to the Polk County Honor Flight and Cornerstone Hospice, the Army vet with two Bronze Stars got to experience the flight for the first time.

The Virtual Flight to Honor iscreen-shot-2016-11-04-at-4-13-29-pms designed for veterans deemed too fragile for the day-long honor flights that take vets to Washington D.C. to tour the war memorials and other points of interest.

Forty-one veterans arrived at American Legion Post 8 in Winter Haven to a crowd of people waving mini American flags and welcoming them to their virtual flight, similar to how the vets are sent off for the flight at Lakeland Linder Regional Airport.screen-shot-2016-11-04-at-4-13-55-pm

Once inside, the veterans were treated to lunch and shown videos taken during the live flights to simulate an experience many of them have never been able to have.

Pat Gruber, volunteer specialist at Cornerstone Hospice, said it was an honor to thanks the veterans for their service in this way.

“It was an amazing day,” she said. “They received all the gifts and perks they would have gotten on the live flight and got to see the monuments dedicated to them.”

screen-shot-2016-11-04-at-4-14-23-pmGary Clark, chairman of the Polk County Veterans Council, acted as the flight commander and gave each veteran a Flight to Honor Challenge Coin that is given at the live flight as well.

World War II veteran David Gentz said he was just happy to be there and be honored.screen-shot-2016-11-04-at-4-13-19-pm

“I can’t complain,” joked the 88-year-old veteran who had never been on a Flight to Honor before.

Another World War II veteran, Clinton Morrison, was not only experiencing his first Flight to Honor but turning 96 as well.

“Many years ago I spent my birthday in Japan,” he said with a smile, referring to World War II.

Gruber said she knew the virtual flight was a success after taking a look at the many veterans in the room as the monuments were displayed on a large screen.

“A lot of them were so teary eyed and thankful for the opportunity to be there,” she said.

-Tori Walker can be reached at tori.walker@theledger.com or 863-802-7590. Follow Tori on Twitter @Torilwalker863.

FacebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailFacebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail