A Chance to Welcome Home and Celebrate WWII Veterans

World War II Memorial in Washington D.C.

World War II Memorial in Washington D.C.

If you live in the Tampa Bay region and have a free Tuesday evening this week, you’re invited to be a part of the welcome home crowd at the St. Pete-Clearwater Airport.

At approximately 8:30 p.m., the West Central Florida Honor Flight is scheduled to return after a full day in Washington D.C. where some 80 WWII Veterans and their escorts visited memorials that honor their military service.
But organizers don’t want to stop there. They are hoping a large crowd will turn out and top off the full day with a genuine “hero’s welcome” as the veterans return home. The welcome home celebration will be in the baggage claim facility. The public is invited to attend this free event.  For more information on Honor Flight in the Tampa Bay Area go to www.HonorFlightWCF.org or 813 842-5843.

No 2011 Celebration for Tampa Bay Black Veterans

Image courtesy of the National Archives pictures of African Americans during WWII.

For years , retired banker, Bob Samuels coordinated a special day to honor black veterans in the Tampa Bay area.

His event usually came around Veterans Day and included speakers and workshops on how to sign up for health services, housing and education benefits that are available to veterans.

There is no event this year, 2011, specifically honoring black veterans. Instead, Samuels, a cancer survivor, shifted his attention to organizing a town hall forum on prostate cancer in December. He said organizing events is time consuming and he couldn’t manage both this year.

Operation Bridal Gown for Tampa Bay Area Military

Tampa Operation Bridal Gown in 2010.

Calling on any active-duty or reserve service member in the Tampa Bay area to be married before July 31, 2012. Operation Bridal Gown is offering the first 200 registrants a wedding dress, free of charge.

But all future brides must register to be eligible, click HERE.

Alfred Angelo is providing 200 brand new wedding gowns, of all sizes and styles, to Operation Homefront specifically for the military of the Tampa area. Family Readiness Directors at MacDill Air Force Base, Mainsail Hotels, Alfred Angelo Designers, and the Bay Area Bridal Association are hosting the bridal fashion show on Sunday August 7, 2011 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Mainsail Conference Center in Tampa.

There will be a free bridal fashion showcase followed by a chance to check out about 50 local vendors offering wedding plan help and services.

Aditionally, all participants will be eligible to win a free wedding ceremony and reception donated by Bay Area Bridal Association.

Military personnel from the Tampa Bay area may contact Carole Adamczyk at carole.adamczyk@soccent.ce​ntcom.mil or Cindy Gierke at cynthia.gierke@jsce.mil, for more information.

Bayshore Patriots to Wave Flags on Monday

A photo from a previous Bayshore Patriot flag waving event along Tampa's main boulevard.

They will be waving flags today (Monday, 2 May 2011) along Tampa’s Bayshore Boulevard from 5 to about 6:30 this evening.

Bayshore Boulevard runs from MacDill Air Force Base at the southern tip of Tampa along the waterfront north to downtown. Many workers and military personnel from that base drive that road. So, that’s why the routine started as a way to acknowledge those fighting terrorism.

The Bayshore Patriots usually go out every Friday afternoon and for honor patrols of the fallen heroes. But, today they will wave flags in memory of those lost in 9-11 attacks.

War Veterans “Welcome Home” Event at Tampa’s USF

It’s the Tampa Bay area’s Fourth Annual “Welcome Home America’s Heroes” celebration for veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars offering entertainment, giveaways and helpful health and benefits information.

U.S. Soldiers assigned to Bravo Company, 2nd Infantry Battalion, 112th Infantry Regiment, patrol through the streets of Abu Ghraib, Iraq, May 7, 2009. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Kani Ronningen/Released)

Tampa’s James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital is hosting the celebration for Florida’s active-duty military members and veterans of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The VA estimates that more than 10,000 veterans from the area have served in the Global War on Terror. They and their family members are invited to the event that also includes free health screenings, information on employment and veterans’ benefits. It’s part of an outreach campaign to assure Florida’s returning veterans are aware of and receive the services and health care they’ve earned.

The event is scheduled at the Tampa campus of the University of South Florida, MLK Plaza, 4202 E. Fowler Ave., on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Military members also will have the oppportunity to meet with representatives from the VA, state and community organizations such as the University of South Florida Veterans’ Association, VetSuccess and the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs officals.

Clearwater Coast Guard First Response Helping Haiti

The men and women of Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater, FL were among the first to respond to Haiti‘s devastating earthquake Jan. 12, 2010. It was a Clearwater Coast Guard crew that did the first flyover of Port-au-Prince and the region:

Tuesday will mark the one-year anniversary of the natural disaster that killed more than 200,000 and left more than 1 million homeless. Many from the Tampa Bay Area and Florida responded with aid. Here’s a Coast Guard video produced in the first weeks of the international response:

Under the direction of the U.S. Southern Command, members of the Navy, Army, Air Force, Marines and Reservists also responded offering medical aid, recovery assistance, clearing ports and evacuating the critically injured.

Toys Are Stacked in the Hangar with Care

Volunteers stack hundreds of boxes of teddy bears in preparation of the big toy giveaway.

The holiday season is coming early this year for children of military families in the Tampa Bay area. WUSF got a sneak peek inside Hangar 3 at MacDill Air Force Base where donations from the Toy Industry Foundation were being set up.

The foundation and the Boys and Girls Club held similar toy giveaways at Marine and Army bases, but MacDill is the first Air Base selected for the “Play Comforts” program. Their goal is simple: to provide children of military families toys and the opportunity to play and restore a sense of normalcy to their lives.

Teddy bears in waiting.

Children in military families have to move a lot from base to base. And many also are dealing with the multiple deployments of a parent or parents. So, the Toy Industry Foundation established the giveaways to thank families for their service.

Board games are among the 5,500 toys to be handed out.

As the boxes were unpacked inside MacDill’s Hangar 3, there were plenty of teddy bears and a stuffed dragon, board games, plastic planes and  even a small rideable motorcycle for a toddler.

“A big benefit for the job is seeing the smiles, seeing the faces of the children,” said Charlie Lechner, Youth Program Director at MacDill. “We’ll be seeing them from infants all the way up to teenagers.”

A stuffed dragon waiting for a child's hug.

An estimated 5,500 toys are stacked near the tables with care in hopes that the children soon will be there Wednesday, Nov. 17, from 2 to 6 p.m.

I can’t write about packages for children without giving a nod to MacDill Air Force SMSgt. Rex Temple and his wife, Liisa Hyvarinen Temple. Rex started a school supplies drive for Afghan children after deploying to Afghanistan in May 2009.

The thing is he and Liisa continue collecting school supplies for Afghan children even though Rex returned April 22, 2010. Their project has been adopted by university students and elementary students in schools from many different states. Community groups and churches have gathered paper, pens, chalk and notebooks.

Rita Horner, a postal worker in Tampa, can barely be seen behind all the boxes of school supplies on their way to Afghan children thanks to SMSgt. Rex Temple's project started in 2009. (Photo taken at Tampa Airport Post Office Nov. 16, 2010)

I mention this because Liisa just mailed more than a dozen boxes to Afghanistan. Airmen and soldiers still serving there are elated to receive and dispense the goods. You can read more about their project on Rex’s blog: Afghanistan: My Last Tour.

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