WWII Veterans’ Honor Flights to Take Off Soon from Tampa

On May 3rd, a special flight will leave Tampa carrying 26 dignitaries to Washington D.C. Their average age is 94. They are members of a dwindling force that once numbered 16 million. They are the men and women who served in the armed forces during WWII.

The WWII Memorial in Washington D.C.

The free day-trips taking WWII veterans to “their memorial” are called Honor Flights. The idea started six years ago in Springfield, Ohio when six small planes carried 12 WWII veterans to the nation’s capital.

The movement to honor the WWII Vets with this trip has grown to 104 groups in many states including Florida. But, no Honor Flights originated out of the Tampa Bay region. That was unthinkable to James Haake, a retired U.S. Army Lt. Col., who helped establish Honor Flight of West Central Florida last fall.

“I will tell you that my 22 years in the service gave me the appreciation of what they did for us almost 70 years ago,” Haake said.

He added that Honor Flight of West Central Florida just received its IRS tax deductible status. “So now, we’re a card carrying 501 C3 with our sole mission of transporting WWII veterans to their memorial free of charge on a day trip.”

Field of 4,000 Gold Stars honors more than 400,000 lives lost during the war (Photo by Richard Latoff)

That first flight is scheduled May 3rd out of Tampa International Airport on Southwest Airlines which donated 25 free flights. The trip will carry 26 WWII veterans and their guardians to Washington D.C. and return that evening.

To make the trip more enjoyable, Haake said Honor Flight of West Central Florida is gathering tote bag items like snacks, disposable cameras, moist hand-towels and of course monetary donations to fund future trips like their second flight in June. Haake said the average cost of a flight ranges from $42,000 to $50,000 and could include up to 150 people.

There’s a waiting list. It’s first come, first serve with priority given to WWII Veterans with a terminal illness. Applications are available on their website: www.honorflightwcf.org . You can contact James Haake at jhaake@tampabay.rr.com.

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