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Witte assists vet in honor of her father

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Barbara Stockdale Witte

Barbara Witte

Special to The

Lancaster News

When I learned about the Southwest Florida Honor Flight, I quickly contacted Don Vecoli, founder and organizer.

He and his staff organize the trips for World War II veterans and volunteers to visit the World War II memorial in Washington, D.C., two or three times per year.

Organizing a flight from Southwest Florida to Washington, D.C., includes volunteers in Fort Myers and Washington; many hours of writing letters and making telephone calls; and most of all, securing the many resources needed to transport 50 veterans and 50 guardians to Washington.

I was invited to be the guardian of veteran Al Ross, U.S. Marine Corps, of Fort Myers.

The itinerary for the veterans is ambitious to say the very least. The Flag Day flight from Fort Myers to Reagan National began at 7:30 a.m.

Three hours later we arrived in Washington where U.S. Navy and Air Force personnel were there to greet us at the gate.

Tears were in everyone’s eyes as the veterans were thanked for their service.

Employees of the airport, as well as passengers arriving and departing, were waving American flags and cheering the veterans as they walked proudly to their buses.

The first stop was the World War II memorial , which was an emotional visit for all of us.

I knew before the trip that I would think about my father, Bob Stockdale, a Marine who served in Guadalcanal and Cape Gloucester in 1942-44.

Al knew his visit to the World War II Memorial would be emotional as well. He served in the Pacific Theater of World War II in Tinian and Peleliu.

Parents and children of all ages stopped to shake Al’s hand and thank him for his service.

After the World War II stop, we were off to Arlington National Cemetery, where we witnessed the changing of the guard and then visited the Iwo Jima Memorial.

Dinner was the next stop and then back to Reagan National for the flight home.

Arrival in Fort Myers was about 11:30 p.m. – a full day, indeed, for everyone.

Serving on an Honor Flight is as rewarding for the guardians as it is for the veterans.

Barbara Stockdale Witte, who lives in North Port, Fla., is the daughter of the late Robert L. Stockdale and the late Clara Lee Bennett Stockdale of Heath Springs.