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Fort Myers Beach Chamber recognizes veterans

October 18, 2017
Jessica Salmond - News Editor ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Charley's Boat House Grill was filled with red, white and blue during the Fort Myers Beach Chamber's October luncheon.

President Jacki Liszak asked members to bring either photos of their friends or relatives who had served in the military.

The guest speakers were also veteran-related; The Hope Hospice Honor Guard and the Collier County Honor Flight.

Article Photos

Sean and Dr. Debi Lux were October's guest speakers at the Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce; the veteran couple formed the Collier County Honor Flight group

The honor guard is a volunteer group through Hope Hospice who perform ceremonies to honor veterans in hospice or in assisted living. Usually three of its members, two being veterans, visit the hope or bed of the veteran to complete this ceremony with their family.

The honor flight is an organization that sponsors veterans to travel to Washington, visit the memorials. These organizations are spread across the states and typically prioritize WWII and Korean vets to visit their war memorials. The Collier chapter was started by Dr. Debi and Sean Lux four years ago. It started as a chapter to serve Naples and Marco Island, but has since grown. Now, it encompasses Lee, too.

The Luxes and their volunteer staff coordinate four trips a year. Every veteran is paired with a guardian who attends to them throughout the day trip to D.C. The veterans' expenses are completely paid for and a plane is chartered to take them on the trip. These organizations focus solely on the happiness of the veteran and go above and beyond to make sure the experience is unforgettable.

One of the biggest parts of the day is the "welcome home." As the veterans get off the plane and make their way out into the airport, hundreds and sometimes thousands of people will be there to welcome them back and thank them for their service. The experience can create a bond between the guardian and the veteran, who spend the entire day together, and have a profound impact on the veteran, some of whom never received a "welcome home" after their service.

"We hear, 'this is the best day of my life, I didn't know I was remembered,'" Debi Lux said.

Every flight costs about $80,000 to put on, Sean Lux said. The guardians make a donation in order to volunteer for the day, and this donation helps make sure the trip is expense-free for the veterans. Guardians do not have to be related to the veteran to be their volunteer, but often the honor flight is something people choose to do with their veteran family members.

Liszak and her husband, Scott Safford, took their fathers on the honor flight a few years ago, and she said the experience really was unforgettable.

"We were losing my dad. He was checking out," she said. "We came back to RSW and there were 2,000 people there to welcome him home. He popped back to life after that, it was amazing."



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