Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Honor Flight Run – Kickstands Up!

Submitted Photo | Collier County Honor Flight

Submitted Photo | Collier County Honor Flight

By Maureen Chodaba

They are the embodiment of courage and the voices of freedom. Today, because of them, most of Europe is free, most of the Pacific is free and America, the beautiful is free. They are our brave veterans. Collectively, they have saved the world.

Mark your calendar for April 30, 2017 for the inaugural Honor Flight Run, a motorcycle event to benefit the Collier County Honor Flight. It’s kickstands up at 10 AM at starting points in both Lee and Collier counties. In Cape Coral, the riders start at the Cape Coral Military Museum with stops at Woody’s Surfside and Mission BBQ. In Naples, the run begins at Naples Harley-Davidson, proceeding on to stops at Duffy’s and Twin Peaks. At 1 PM, both groups will converge at Six Bends Harley-Davidson, 9501 Thunder Road, Fort Myers for a Sizzlin’ Sunday celebration with great food and entertainment featuring the sounds of the ultimate Journey Tribute Band. This phenomenal event will raise funds for another truly ultimate journey; one of honor, one of emotion.

The run will benefit Collier County Honor Flight, our local chapter of the national organization, Honor Flight Network. Collier County Honor Flight is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization created to honor America’s war veterans by transporting them to Washington DC for a day of fellowship and reflection at THEIR memorials. The honor flights are organized and funded 100% by volunteers and local donors. There is no cost for the veterans. These trips are gifts for our heroes. Our most senior heroes, our World War II veterans, receive top priority in this mission. At present, the program also includes our Korean War veterans, as space allows. As time goes on, our Vietnam veterans and all others who have served will also be eligible for the program on a chronological basis.

Many of these veterans have never before had the opportunity to visit their memorials. Many would still be unable to do so because of disabilities, illness and simply their age. Honor Flight Network has made this dream possible. Volunteers who serve as guardians accompany the veterans on the honor flight. Guardians pay their own flight cost. They handle all flight preparations for the veterans by obtaining their boarding passes, assisting them through security and boarding, and ensuring that each hero has a safe, memorable and rewarding experience.

Collier County Honor Flight was founded on September 25, 2013 by two veterans, Sean Lux and his wife, Dr. Debi Lux. The inaugural flight itself took place on November 9, 2013. Sean and Debi Lux, heroes in their own right, are grateful for the opportunity to honor other veterans. They have humbly stated, “We believe the secret to success and happiness is to give back to the community and expect nothing in return. We hope we have touched the lives of others. We are always overjoyed to bring happiness to our veterans and let them know that they have not been forgotten.”

For so many veterans, the honor flight is a dream come true and last hurrah, so to speak. It is not just a flight. The Honor Flight is an emotional journey. Imagine the faces of our veterans as they arrive in Washington. Imagine having served your country and seeing the WWII and Korean War Memorials for the first time. Imagine the feeling. For them, it is not just an encounter of sight. It is an experience of every sense and emotion.

They fought battles and experienced things that most of us cannot imagine. They gave us our freedom. They gave us life. As Americans, we must promise that our veterans will always be honored. We must never forget.

The Collier County Honor Flight motorcycle run on April 30 will help keep that promise alive. Tickets are on sale at www.eventbrite.com/e/collier-county-honor-flight-run-tickets-31725173849. Don’t have a motorcycle? No worries! Cars are welcome! Sponsors for the event include Six Bends Harley-Davidson, VITAS Healthcare, DeMarco Tile Distributor, Coastal Beverage Ltd., Naples Pro Realty, Naples Lumber, Mission BBQ and Barrington Terrace.

Collier County Honor Flight Mission 13 takes off on May 13. It will carry a sacred cargo of courageous men and women on a journey of memories, reflection, courage and honor. You can be one of the lucky ones to shake the hands of these 70 WWII and Korean War Veterans upon their return home at 9 PM that night at RSW, Southwest Florida International Airport. These are America’s real celebrities. They are not sports figures or movie stars. They are our stars of liberty who have beared the stripes of freedom.

Please visit www.collierhonorflight.org to become a volunteer or make a donation. Checks may be mailed to Collier County Honor Flight, PO Box 8001, Naples, FL 34101. All donations are 100% tax deductible.

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