At their regular monthly meeting in October, San Marco Knights of Columbus Assembly 2514 Faithful Navigator Joe Swaja presented Collier Lee Honor Flight representative Captain Frank Reifsnyder USN (Retired) with a check for $2,000. Also present were the Past Faithful Navigator John Fusco, who was instrumental in raising the donation to Collier Lee Honor Flight, and San Marco Grand Knight John DeRosa.
Collier Lee Honor Flight was established on September 22, 2013 and had its first flight, Mission 1, on November 9, 2013. The mission of Collier Lee Honor Flight is to transport veterans from Collier and Lee Counties to Washington, DC to visit the memorials dedicated to honor their service and sacrifices. A typical mission will visit the World War II Memorial, Korean War Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Air Force Memorial, Marine Corps Memorial, and Arlington Cemetery. Top priority is given to World War II and Korean War era veterans, and to any veteran of any war that has a terminal illness. Veterans travel by a chartered commercial jet, and police escorted buses while on the ground. A typical mission will have 70 to 75 veterans. Trips are provided at no cost to the veterans. Each individual veteran will also have a volunteer Guardian to provide any assistance needed. The Guardians make a donation to Honor Flight to defray the cost of their travel.
Collier Lee Honor Flight receives no taxpayer assistance and has no paid employees. Each Honor Flight Hub plans, raises the funds, and conducts its own missions with no financial support from the Honor Flight Network. The cost of each Honor Flight Mission comes solely from donations by individuals, organizations, and local businesses. Collier Lee Honor Flight has been conducting three missions per year. The next mission, Mission 21 will take place on November 2, 2019 to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the D-Day Landings on Normandy. Collier Lee Honor Flight also conducts an Honor At Home Event at the Regional Southwest Airport in Fort Myers during each Honor Flight for those veterans that are unable to fly for medical or other reasons.
Collier Lee Honor Flight is the regional hub for the national Honor Flight Network. Honor Flight was formed in Ohio in January 2005. The first Honor Flight to Washington DC consisting of six small planes and 12 veterans took place on May 21, 2005. A similar organization called Honor Air was formed in North Carolina in 2005. Honor Air pioneered the use of commercial jets to transport veterans to Washington, DC. The two organizations merged in February 2007 to become the Honor Flight Network, a 501(c)(3) non-profit charity.