Bid Bon Voyage to Veterans on Fort Lauderdale's First Honor Flight
When the Honor Flight Network makes its inaugural flight out of Fort Lauderdale on Sunday, with 16 veterans headed for Washington D.C, few will be rejoicing more than Richard Rosenzweig.
The Deerfield Beach commissioner, a Navy Reserve veteran, knows first-hand the impact of the war memorials at Arlington National Cemetery. It was his hope – and his crusade – to make seeing them possible for veterans in South Florida. The flight Sunday represents the work of three years.
“They have been flying out of West Palm Beach for the last four years and, at the time, people here didn’t know you could get a flight out of Fort Lauderdale,” he said of Honor Flight, the non-profit organization that makes the trips possible. “And there wasn’t money to do it. Veterans were driving up from Key West to fly out of West Palm Beach.”
Since 2005, the Honor Flight Network has helped upward of 1 million veterans to Washington D.C. West Palm Beach’s program, which handles veterans from Deerfield Beach to Key West, had so many requests -- and fielded so many donations -- that the group began to charter airplanes for the trips.
Rosenzweig knew there veterans in Broward County who were yearning to see the World War II, Korean War,Viet Nam War and other memorials.The problem was, while veterans fly for free, many were so frail they required someone to lift them into and out of their wheel chairs. Guardians had to be trained, capable of lifting 100 pounds – and willing to pay $400 for a trip for themselves and for their veteran.
For a year, Rosenzweig said, he made phone calls to Honor Flight Network personnel. He raised money by taking donations at a booth on July 4, and soliciting various veterans organizations. On October 27, 16 veterans from the Korean War, Viet Nam, Afghanistan and three from World War II boarded the very first flight from Fort Lauderdale to Washington D.C.
Rosenzweig said he plans to be there to celebrate their departure at 7 a.m.-- and their return at 8:30 p.m. But he himself won’t be on the flight. “I’m studying to become a guardian,” he said.
The Fort Lauderdale Honor Flight leaves at 7 a.m. Sunday, October 27, Fort Lauderdale Terminal 3, Flight 1333, U.S. Air. The homecoming is at Terminal 3 as well, 8:30 p.m., Flight 1947, U.S. Air.