By Marie Gilmore
There is power in numbers. When it comes to giving, the Brandon community has the numbers to make things happen. When Chick-fil-A Lake Brandon Village owners, Paul and Tammy Holmberg, and Dynamic Painting USA owner, Rob Silver, signed up a year ago to be escorts for World War II veterans to make sure they were pampered and safe during their daytrip to Washington, D.C., they didn’t realize that the trip they were signing up for would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to spend the day with a living legend. The trio, along with myself and Dr. Chad Polley of Health Source Chiropractic and his wife Leesa and retired Air Force Pilot dad, Craig Polley, went on yet another flight last September.
The group decided that since the organization putting on the flights, Honor Flight of West Central Florida (WCF), which is entirely volunteer run, has more than 500 World War II Veterans on the waiting list for the opportunity to fly, and because each charter flight can only accommodate 75 veterans, along with 75 guardians and support crew, the group, all small business owners from Brandon, would take on the responsibility of raising the $25,000 of corporate donations needed to get another flight off the ground. They didn’t do it alone. With phone calls, grants, and help from small business owners and businesses in the community, the group raised the amount in three weeks and funded its Saturday, May 18, 2013 Armed Forces Day flight to Washington, D.C. The flight will leave Tampa at 6 a.m. to fly the Vets to D.C. where they will take a photo at Arlington National Cemetery and the Iwo Jima Memorial, then a one-hour stop at the World War II Memorial with a final stop at the Lincoln, Korea and Vietnam memorials before a return trip to the airport and home the same night.
As of today, Honor Flight of WCF, a two-year old organization, has flown more than 500 WWII vets and their guardians to D.C. The urgency is that if a WWII Vet was 17-years-old in 1945, they are a minimum of 85-years-old today. This brings the average age of an Honor Flight Vet to 90-years-old. Although wheelchairs are available, it is a better experience if the vets are mobile.
“These are members of our greatest generation,” said Honor Flight president and Valrico resident, James Haake, a retired Army Veteran.
“We need to get these Vets up to D.C. for this once-in-a-lifetime experience and the time is now.”
To get involved in Honor flight or donate to a flight or sign up to be a guardian, visit www.honorflightwcf.org.
Businesses supporting the Brandon Business, May 18 Armed Forces Day Flight include:
Volusia Honor Air
Wal-Mart Bloomingdale Square
Wal-Mart Causeway Blvd.
William Belton DMD
Dr. Chad Polley, Health Source Chiropractic
Benjamin Mena, Run For A Cause
Chick-fil-A Lake Brandon Village
Osprey Observer Newspapers
Dynamic Painting USA
Kids ‘R’ Kids Circa FishHawk and Valrico