TALLAHASEE, Fla. -- When the Navy cancelled Continuing Promise 2013 deployment due to sequestration, 280 brand-new wheelchairs from The Wheelchair Foundation, provided for the deployment mission to 4th Fleet Area of Responsibility (AOR), no longer had a final destination. Turns out these wheelchairs were just what some American Veterans needed for their visit to the World War II Memorial in Washington D.C.. The Tallahassee, Florida, Chapter of the Honor Flight Network was planning a trip for Veterans from the Tallahassee area, but needed wheelchairs for the mission. The Honor Flight Network is a non profit organization that transports American Veterans to Washigton D.C. to visit their memorials, with the priority being to senior Veterans such as World War II survivors.
"We need wheelchairs because the youngest of our World War II Veterans is 85 years old," said Captain Scott Barry, Special Operations Director for the Leon County Florida Emergency Management Service. "The wheelchairs allow us to safely transport many of the Veterans and help keep them comfortable as they go from place to place." Capt. Barry contacted the Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Chapter of the Wheelchair Foundation, who had provided the 280 wheelchairs to U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. Fourth Fleet (USNAVSO/FOURTHFLT) for Continuing Promise 2013. After a few phone calls and emails, the wheelchairs, located in Norfolk, Virginia, were redirected to the Honor Flight Network.
But one hurdle remained how to get the wheelchairs loaded onto trucks in Norfolk and taken to Tallahassee in time for the Veterans' trip to Washington, D.C. That's where a group of Fleet Logistic Center Norfolk volunteers contributed their time and talents to palletize the wheelchairs and stage them for shipment. Approximately 20 Sailors and civilians loaded approximately 35 Pallets on two United Parcel Service semi-trucks for the trip to Tallahassee. On May 11th, 79 Veterans made the trip to Washington, D.C. Volunteers from the Honor Flight Network,, greeted the Veterans at the Tallahassee and Baltimore airports, and provided a police escort to and from the Memorial, all to say thank you for their service. "Many of the Veterans told me this was one, if not best day of their lives," said Capt. Barry. "Not only did they get to visit the Memorial but also made connections with other Vets in our area and now will continue to support each other in their final years." "We are pleased that we were able to play a small role in helping these American heroes see their Memorial," said Rear Admiral Sinclair Harris, Commander U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/Commander U.S. 4th Fleet.. Harris went on to say. "We like to say that we do real work to help real people to make a real difference, and in this instance, we were fortunate to have just what the Honor Flight Network needed for a memorable day." U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command and U.S. 4th Fleet supports USSOUTHCOM joint and combined full-spectrum military operations by providing principally sea-based, forward presence to ensure freedom of maneuver in the maritime domain, to foster and sustain cooperative relationships with international partners and to fully exploit the sea as maneuver space in order to enhance regional security and promote peace, stability, and prosperity in the Caribbean, Central and South American regions.