More than 60 local veterans will head to Washington, D.C., Saturday to celebrate the end of Military Appreciation Month. The trip is sponsored by Honor Flight, a nonprofit that organizes trips to the nation’s capital for veterans of the Korean and Second World wars.
The event will be a day of firsts. For many vets, it will be the first time seeing the memorials that pay tribute to their service. Joe Napoli, chief of staff at Miami International Airport, says this will be the first time an honor flight will go out of Miami.
“What’s historic about it is not just that we’re doing it here at Miami International but also that Eastern Airlines, that has recently been brought back, will be flying them,” says Napoli.
The airline was out of business for more than 20 years after filing for bankruptcy in 1989. Miami Honor will be its first flight as a revamped company with headquarters in MIA.
The veterans are scheduled to leave Miami at 6:30 a.m., and they'll be back by the end of the day. Their flight numbers will coincide with the start and end of the war, 1941 and 1945, and on the way home the vets will relive the tradition of mail calls.
“When mail would arrive they would call out each person’s name and deliver the mail that was for them from family and friends," says Napoli. "We undertook a letter-writing campaign... and we’ve collected over 2,700 letters for the veterans. Nothing like this has ever been done before for the Honor Flight and they are very appreciative of it."
A veterans homecoming celebration will be held at the airport Saturday at 8:15 p.m. Attendees are encouraged to use public transportation to avoid traffic and parking issues.