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Service member "Guardians" escort WWII Vets to our Nation's Capitol

Col. Allison Bowden, Commander, 45th Medical Group, and Chief Master Sergeant Herman Moyer, 45th Space Wing Command Chief, (far left) presented coins to each and every World War II Veteran during the Space Coast Honor Flight ceremony Aug. 25. Col. Bowden thanked each of the Veterans, reminding everyone in attendance, “For all of your sacrifices, we honor you. Because of you, we have our freedoms.” (Photo by Army Sgt. 1st Class Jennifer Menger)

Col. Allison Bowden, Commander, 45th Medical Group, and Chief Master Sergeant Herman Moyer, 45th Space Wing Command Chief, (far left) presented coins to each and every World War II Veteran during the Space Coast Honor Flight ceremony Aug. 25. Col. Bowden thanked each of the Veterans, reminding everyone in attendance, “For all of your sacrifices, we honor you. Because of you, we have our freedoms.” (Photo by Army Sgt. 1st Class Jennifer Menger)

Air Force Chaplain (Capt.) Jason Gunnels, 45th Space Wing, and Marine Corps World War II Veteran Vincent DiPentima, 86, of Palm Bay, Fla., pose together after Capt. Gunnels pins DiPentima’s photo on him Aug. 25. The photos are those of the Veterans from their days in the Service, and when pinned on them by their Honor Flight escorts, they symbolize a commitment between the two of them. (Photo by Army Sgt. 1st Class Jennifer Menger)

Air Force Chaplain (Capt.) Jason Gunnels, 45th Space Wing, and Marine Corps World War II Veteran Vincent DiPentima, 86, of Palm Bay, Fla., pose together after Capt. Gunnels pins DiPentima’s photo on him Aug. 25. The photos are those of the Veterans from their days in the Service, and when pinned on them by their Honor Flight escorts, they symbolize a commitment between the two of them. (Photo by Army Sgt. 1st Class Jennifer Menger)

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- The emails went out for a get-together in the wee hours of Saturday morning, Aug. 25.

This was no ordinary party, though; it was a salute to Florida's Space Coast World War II Veterans.

This group was getting together to salute this year's fifth Space Coast Honor Flight scheduled to depart the Wickham Park Senior Center with 25 Veterans bound for Washington, D.C. for a one-day trip to tour the Washington, D.C. area, and the military memorials throughout our Nation's Capitol.

This was a chance for young volunteers to mix with the Greatest Generation - to learn from men and women who fought in battles many of us only read about in history books, watched in made-for-TV movies, or retold by great-grandparents.

In her remarks to the packed gathering room at the Senior Center, Air Force Col. Allison Bowden, 45th Space Wing Medical Group, thanked the Veterans for their sacrifices, reminding the crowd of approximately 300 that, "Because of these men, because of their sacrifices, we are able to live our dreams, fulfill our hopes, and pursue our dreams."

As 25 guardians prepared to pin photos of what their Veterans looked like when they were in the Service onto their Veterans shirts, there was a cheer that erupted through the room. This was definitely the place to be on a rainy Saturday morning. After the pinning ceremony, it was time for the guardians to escort their Veterans onto the bus that would take them to the airport in Orlando for their flight to Washington, D.C.

Outside the Senior Center, somewhere around 4 a.m., Service Members from across the Space Coast stood shoulder-to--shoulder to applaud those heading out, and it was obvious at that point that no matter what the Service, no matter what the unit, no matter what the rank, this was about something bigger.

This was about coming together as a Nation, to honor those who have led the way, fought the hard fight, and set the example for younger generations to emulate.

For more information on how you can support the Space Coast Honor Flight organization, please contact them at www.spacecoasthonorflight.org or 1-888-750-2522.