A group of World War II veterans, enough to fill an entire airplane, will fly to Washington, D.C. to visit a memorial that has been built in their honor, thanks to money raised by high school students. The students have raised almost $50,000 over the past three years, which has paid for roughly 500 veterans to travel to Washington, D.C. as part of the Honor Flight South Florida local nonprofit charity.
Thousands of students from a number of schools throughout Broward County consider their tireless fundraising efforts as their civic duty and will continue to raise money to fund more of these special Honor Flight trips.
The Association of Student Councils, who are in charge of the fundraising events, has said that they are extremely proud of the students’ contribution to the cause. Chairman of the local group, Rick Asper, refers to the kids as “heroes.”
Veterans who have had the chance to go on one of the trips have described the event as the greatest day of their lives. The memorial in D.C. was dedicated in 2004 during the Memorial Day weekend and the Honor Flight has provided most of the WWII veterans their first opportunity to visit the memorial so that they can remember their time spent in WWII and honor the friends and comrades that were lost in it.
The men are welcomed on arrival at the airport terminal by crowds of people waving flags and cheering. There are always a number of students in the crowds too.
95-year-old WWII veteran Buddy Gavin was on the very first South Florida Honor Flight and described the experience as overwhelming. He said, “It’s hard to put into words your feelings when you see a memorial in honor of what you did.”
To raise money for the flights, students have held small fundraising events such as dodgeball tournaments where the entrance fee is donated to the fund, and competitions to see which class could collect the most loose change in two minutes. In 2015, students raised $33,000, with this year’s donation already beating that total.
Part of what inspires the students to keep on with the fundraising is when the WWII veterans visit their schools and the students get to hear the veterans’ war stories first hand. Larissa Angrisanio, a 17-year-old Plantation High student said, “They’re part of the reason we get to do what we do.”
The next lucky group of 80 veterans are due to take their Honor Flight on April 2.