Veterans met their guardians on Sunday at St. Paul's Lutheran Church for an orientation for Tuesday's flight. | Kimberly C. Moore, LkldNow.

More than seven dozen U.S. military veterans will be spending Tuesday in Washington, D.C., visiting various military memorials and Arlington National Cemetery as part of Polk Veterans Council’s annual Flight to Honor.

The Polk Veterans Council charters an Allegiant Air flight each year at a cost of at least $100,000. The flights are paid for entirely with contributions through the GiveWell Foundation, a 501-C3 nonprofit.

Organizers say they are hoping the veterans receive a huge welcome home from the community at Lakeland Linder International Airport Tuesday evening when they arrive back – landing at about 7:30 p.m.

Eighty of the 87 veterans on the flight are Vietnam-War-era veterans, many of whom were greeted with disrespect when they returned to the United States following their deployment to that controversial conflict in the 1960s and 1970s.

“This is important to a lot of these guys,” said retired U.S. Air Force Col. Gary Clark, chairman of the Polk Veterans Council. “They never got the welcome home they deserved.”

“This is important to a lot of these guys … They never got the welcome home they deserved.”

Ret. U.S. Air Force Col. Gary Clark

In addition to the Vietnam-era veterans, four men who served in World War II are scheduled to make the trip.

A bus will take the group to the Washington Mall, where they can tour the World War II Memorial, the Vietnam Wall, and the Korean War Memorial. They can also visit the Lincoln Memorial before heading to Arlington National Cemetery for the 2 p.m. changing of the guard.

Breakfast and dinner will be donated by Chick-fil-A and Mission BBQ. 

LkldNow Senior Reporter Kimberly Moore interviews Marine veteran Ray Dobles during Flight to Honor orientation on Sunday, April 23, 2023. | Courtesy Lakeland Police Department

Every veteran will be escorted by a guardian. This LKLDNow reporter will be escorting former U.S. Marine Ray Dobles. He served from 1970-1973, mainly in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

“I get mad when I hear people talking bad about this country,” Dobles said during an orientation on Sunday at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church. “They don’t know all the stuff that’s going on.”

If you go to the Welcome Home Celebration:

Where: Lakeland Linder International Airport Terminal, 3900 Don Emerson Drive off of Drane Field Road.

When: Tuesday, April 25. Access to the tarmac begins at 5:30 p.m., with the flight scheduled to land between 7:15 and 7:45.

The 2022 Welcome Home ceremony. | Courtesy Lakeland Police Department

SEND CORRECTIONS, questions, feedback or news tips:

Kimberly C. Moore

Kimberly C. Moore, who grew up in Lakeland, has been a print, broadcast and multimedia journalist for more than 30 years. Before coming to LkldNow in the spring of 2022, she was a reporter for four years with The Ledger, first covering Lakeland City Hall and then Polk County schools. She is the author of “Star Crossed: The Story of Astronaut Lisa Nowak," published by University Press of Florida. Reach her at or 863-272-9250.

Leave a comment

Your Thoughts On This? (Comments are moderated; first and last name are required.)