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Veterans get free trip to D.C, second chance at homecoming celebration

Southeast Florida Honor Flight volunteers took them to capital
Posted at 1:26 PM, Sep 17, 2023

PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — Dozens of flights land at Palm Beach International Airport daily, but a special flight touched down on the runway on Saturday: A flight full of heroes returning from the nation’s capital.

Southeast Florida Honor Flight volunteers took veterans on the free daylong trip to Washington, D.C. According to the group, this flight was mostly made up of World War II veterans. Men and women who fought in the Korean and Vietnam wars were also on board.

It was the third time Vietnam veterans were invited.

Winston Oliva served in Vietnam, and his wife Debi, was patiently, and somewhat anxiously, waiting for her husband to return from Washington.

“He was looking so forward to doing this so that he can be on a plane ride with all 78 of his buddies that are now his brothers,” she told WPTV reporter Cassandra Garcia at the airport.

Winston said it's a moment he’ll never forget.

Winston Oliva (right), who served in Vietnam, said is was an "unbelievable" welcome back to PBIA. Sept. 17, 2023
Winston Oliva (right), who served in Vietnam, said is was an "unbelievable" welcome welcome back to PBIA.

"It was an unbelievable welcome," he said. "It just gives me chills and gives me tears."

He came home raving about the time he had on the trip.

"Fabulous," he said. "All the war memorials we went to and everything. It was absolutely fantastic."

The trip to Washington was a way for these men and women to be celebrated and honored for their time in the armed forces, something a lot of them might've missed out on upon their return.

"A lot of these men were never welcomed home when they came home," Debi Oliva said. “As a matter of fact most of them were actually spit on.”

Organizers encouraged people waiting at PBIA for the veterans to come home to bring signs, cheer, and really make them feel special.

"I can’t tell you what honor flight does to these veterans," she said. "It really brings them back to life.”"

To learn more about Southeast Florida Honor Flight and how you can become involved as a volunteer or to donate to the next flight, visit www.honorflightsefl.org.