Collier-Lee Honor Flight takes veterans to Washington D.C. memorials

Veterans were in flight Saturday morning, thanks to the Collier-Lee Honor Flight.

The flight’s mission is to take local veterans to Washington, D.C. to visit the memorials dedicated to honor their service and sacrifice.

This year’s flight took off early Saturday morning, toting vets from the area and multiple volunteers and guardians, including WINK News’ very own Teri Evans.

Collier-Lee Honor Flight (Teri Evans/WINK News)

The plane was decked out with American flags and smiling heroes, one who even played the song “Proud To Be An American” as he walked up and down the aisle of the plane.

Everyone seems to be in good spirits and excited to make the journey.

Korean War Veteran Roger Zucker is preparing for a mission of a lifetime.

“Just knowing you’re going there all of a sudden you bring things up out of your mind that you had forgotten,” he said. “I’m sure all of that will come back as we walk around these various memorials…there’s gonna be some tears and laughter and so forth while we walk around there.”

It’s a whirlwind,18-hour day that began at zero-dark-thirty.

“I’m ready, but I’m definitely getting some sleep beforehand,” he said with a chuckle.

Collier-Lee Honor Flight (Teri Evans/WINK News)

HEROES RETURN HOME

Collier-Lee Honor Flight (Teri Evans/WINK News)

And when these veterans returned home to Southwest Florida International Airport Saturday night, hundreds of welcomers were present to greet those who served our country.

The 85 veterans on the Collier-Lee Honor Flight were paraded through the airport with welcome home signs, banners, a band and plenty of fanfare to give the veterans an honorable welcome home.

“I’m a veteran, and I was in this flight in 2016,” veteran Sunny Correale said. “And it was an amazing day for me. I never expected all the people to come out as they are here now. It made us feel so welcome and proud of us. It made me feel proud to be a veteran. All these people came out.”

Collier-Lee Honor Flight 

Military families, law enforcement and community members were all present for the those who served. Many people we spoke to said it was their second or third time coming to RSW to honor our local veterans.

CLHF says top priority is given to the most senior heroes—survivors of WWII and any veteran with a terminal illness who wishes to visit the memorials. The program is also extended to Vietnam War veterans as space allows.

Korean War Veteran Roger Zucker (Teri Evans/WINK News)

The CLHF was established in 2013 and had it’s inaugural flight just six weeks after forming.

To date CLHF has transported nearly 1,200 WWII, Korean and Vietnam veterans on this deeply emotional and well deserved trip.

Each flight holds a price tag of $100,000 which is completely funded by businesses and individuals locally. The trips are funded solely through private donations and there is zero charge to the veterans.

If you’d like to learn more about the Collier-Lee Honor Flight or make a donation, click here.

Reporter:Sydney Persing
Writer:Briana Harvath
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