Group Sends South Florida Military Veterans to Visit Memorials
For two World War II Veterans from Deerfield Beach who last fall took part in an Honor Flight to Washington D.C., the day-long trip is one they will never soon forget.
Harry Minett and Robert “Bob” Hafley both served in the Pacific during the war, but did not know each other then. They met more than 40 years ago and became good friends. Last summer they learned about a group called Honor Flight that flies veterans to Washington, D.C., for a day to visit the memorials at no charge to the veteran. They both applied and were accepted for the September flight. They got to experience their Honor Flight together.
They visited the World War II Memorial, Arlington National Cemetery and watched the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and also visited the Iwo Jima Memorial.
“When we arrived at D.C., what a surprise to see so many people at the airport to greet us,” Hafley said. “It was unbelievable,” Minett added. “Even those going to catch another flight took the time to stop and thank us for our service. There were people everywhere. All I kept saying was WOW!”
oth Minett and Hafley said it would be hard to pick a favorite part of the trip, but both were very taken aback with the reception the veterans received both in Washington upon arrival, at each memorial stop along their day-long journey, and when they returned back to Florida that night. Both agreed that the crowd and greeting upon their return home were something entirely unexpected.
If you would like to experience the homecoming celebration when the next group of 43 local Honor Flight veterans returns home, make your plans to be at the Fort Lauderdale International Airport Saturday evening on May 31 at Terminal 3. Hafley and Minett plan to attend.
Upon returning home last fall, “It was the largest group of people I’ve ever seen in my whole life,” said Hafley, who with Minett and the other veterans from the flight heard noises from down the terminal when they got off the plane, only thinking there was some type of event going on.
“We didn’t realize the party was for us!” Minett said. “We walked down the terminal and once we rounded the corner it was like, unbelievable! I was so surprised. Even our wives and children came out to welcome us home.”
“I shook hands until I was exhausted,” Hafley said. “I got kissed and hugged by so many people … just crazy!”
Both were impressed with the groups of youth who were at the airport — all wanting to say thanks for their service to our country.
“It’s hard to express to people what we experienced and saw because it was so special, just super … wow,” Minett said, adding, “I feel I can speak for all the veterans that fly on an Honor Flight … We are incredibly grateful for the experience afforded to us by Honor Flight. What a great organization.”
Honor Flight South Florida is based in Plantation and was formed in May 2013 to serve veterans in Broward, Dade and Monroe counties. Their mission is simple: Fly every able-bodied veteran to Washington, D.C., to see the memorials built in their honor, at no charge to the veteran.
The group is 100 percent all volunteer, which means every dollar donated goes to flying veterans to see their memorials. The group concentrates on the oldest veterans first, noting that up to 800 World War II veterans pass on every day.
Want to Go?
Honor Flight veterans’ homecoming celebration
Fort Lauderdale International Airport, Saturday, May 31, Terminal 3
The flight will arrive around 8:10 p.m., but Honor Flight organizers recommend you get there early. Go to the hall in the back of Terminal 3. In front of the security checkpoint, look to the left, and that is where the veterans will be greeted.
Robert ‘Bob’ Hafley (right) served in the Army Air Corps (now the Air Force), circa 1942 to 1945.
Harry Minett (left) served in the Navy, circa 1942 to 1945.