Honoring Veterans This Memorial Day with Arthrex's Continued Honor Flight Support
This Memorial Day, Arthrex is proud to honor veterans and the many employees in our company that have served in the military. Each year, Arthrex sponsors the Collier County Chapter of Honor Flight, an organization that provides war veterans a free trip to Washington D.C. to visit the National World War II Memorial and other memorials in the nation’s capital.
The local chapter raises funds and connects with veterans, guardians and companies to participate. Many Arthrex employees have welcomed veterans back from their flights and even supported the chapter as guardians. Surgeon Contract Coordinator/Paralegal Kelly Lafata had the opportunity to join the fifth Honor Flight on Saturday, May 21, as a guardian the WWII veterans' journey.
"I had the privilege of being a part of Honor Flight, One Last Mission, Number 9," shared Kelly. "I was one of 65 guardians who each escorted a WWII and/or Korea Veterans on a trip that was beyond words...amazing. Not many times in your life does one get to experience such honor and gratitude for our veterans, however, this mission was nothing less than the highest form of admiration we could have given to these individuals. From the moment we arrived at the Ft. Myers airport by police escort, each and every aspect of the journey was planned and executed with the utmost respect and appreciation for the veterans. From a fully decorated aircraft, to the water cannon salute over the plane on the run way, the warm welcome of soldiers, cheerleaders and a supportive community upon arrival in Washington DC, right down to the hundreds of people that welcomed us home at a celebration parade in Ft. Myers airport. The entire 15-hour adventure was a true allegiance of Collier County’s Honor Flight Mission for past services/sacrifices provided by these veterans.
A special note about “One Last Mission” Number 9, is that it was the first honor flight dedicated to not only those who traveled by our side, but also the 83,000 POW/MIA in spirit. Each guardian wore the name of MIA solider on a bracelet whom shared in each and every step of our journey. The MIA who traveled with myself and Don (Korea Veteran) was Colonel Thomas E. Gillen USAF. The letter provided to us with the bracelet indicated he was shot down in his F4-5 over Laos on February 18, 1970 and is still missing. The hope of my veteran Don and myself is to find Thomas’ family and to share with them our adventure and present them with an MIA pin we purchased at the Lincoln Memorial.
A statement that appears on the Korean Memorial is that 'FREEDOM IS NOT FREE.' In reflection, I cannot imagine a better way to show gratitude to our veterans, including my family and friends who have served, than to be a part of this mission. I believe that what you do for others reveals who you are on as a person. If my volunteer time on this trip brought a feeling of appreciation or a warm heart to at least one during the day, then I feel blessed."
To view more photos from the Honor Flight courtesy of Arthrex Photographer Chris Toalson, click here.