By Drema Grippa, M.A., and Megan Hart, B.S., Clinical Psychology Students
Space Coast Honor Flight (SCHF) is an all-volunteer organization whose mission is to take World War II, Vietnam War and Korean War veterans to visit the War Memorials in Washington, D.C., constructed in their honor. This is a unique opportunity to show gratitude to these heroes who made it possible for us to enjoy the freedom we have today. The SCHF officials were quoted as saying, “Space Coast Honor Flight is privileged to honor veterans whose service and sacrifices made possible the freedoms that all Americans enjoy today! There are thousands of World War II/Korean veterans living in Brevard County who are eligible to travel on an Honor Flight trip to Washington, D.C. Space Coast Honor Flight is supported by generous donations from individuals, businesses and grants. They provide a one-day, all expense paid trip to give vets an opportunity to visit their memorials, exchange experiences with fellow vets and reflect upon their service. This is a unique opportunity to show our gratitude to these heroes who made it possible for us to enjoy the freedoms we have today,” (Space Coast Honor Flight).
Drema Grippa and Megan Hart, clinical psychology doctoral students and members of the Veterans’ Team at Florida Institute of Technology, volunteered as guardians to escort two veterans on the flight. They shared the following:
“This past March, I had the privilege of participating in a Space Coast Honor Flight as a guardian for Harry Bartolin, an incredible WWII veteran who served in the Army Airborne. In roughly a 22-hour time period, an amazing group of veterans, Honor Flight board members, guardians and medical personnel flew round trip to Washington, D.C., to assist these men in an endeavor to experience the memorials constructed in their honor in our nation’s capital. In that short period of time, I was fortunate to share the lives of many of these veterans, as I eagerly listened to their stories and recollections, some happy and some not. Memories of adversity and adventure, camaraderie and sacrifice, tragedy and triumph; but regardless of the story or storyteller, there seemed to be a common thread between all of them … a sense of duty to our country and a quiet dignity and respect for comrades lost all those years ago. This love of country and sense of duty is what drove these individuals to volunteer for military service 70 years ago. It was the most incredible experience to be with these veterans as we stood marveling at the solemn yet awe-inspiring memorials. These men who served in the military through one of the most turbulent and difficult periods of time in our history deserve every American’s respect.”
“From the moment I arrived at the Washington memorial, I felt an instant rush of warmth and love. I have never experienced so much passion and recognition. The Space Coast Honor Flight showed so much appreciation, gratitude and respect to the veterans. As I spent the day, side by side with the veteran I was a guardian for, Bill Andrews, I learned a lot about him, his life experiences and how the military changed him. I felt honored to be surrounded by such dignified men throughout the day, listening to their stories and trying my best to understand what serving our country was like for them. This day wasn’t just for them to be heard, honored and appreciated, but for them to feel the military comradery. This was an experience of a lifetime and I am so grateful I had the opportunity to give back to the veterans and be a part of such a special and memorable day for them.”