TSA assists veterans as Honor Flights resume

Wednesday, November 10, 2021
Miami Honor Guard photo

After more than a year pause because of the pandemic, Honor Flights are starting up again at airports around the country, and TSA is making sure the veterans involved have a smooth screening experience before departures.

Honor Flights take veterans of World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War to Washington, D.C. to visit the monuments dedicated to them.  

By all accounts, these trips are unforgettable experiences for veterans who served and sacrificed for our country. The looks on their faces as they prepare to get on planes tell it all. They are sometimes moved to tears when honored by TSA, airport employees and local officials.

Meanwhile, the experience is an honor for TSA officers who have the privilege of playing a part in making their trips special. TSA honor guards stand at attention and present the colors, while a TSA officer often sings the national anthem. Along the way, TSA officers salute the veterans and thank them for their service.

TSA recently facilitated Honor Flights from Florida’s Jacksonville International Airport (JAX), Miami International Airport (MIA) and Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport (BHM) in Alabama to Washington, D.C.

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Jacksonville International Airport

Jacksonville STSO photo
Jacksonville International Airport Supervisory Officer Elmer Davis salutes veterans before an Honor Flight. (Photo courtesy of TSA JAX)

TSA Jacksonville assisted with an Honor Flight for 56 local veterans and caretakers. The looks of excitement and honor on the veterans’ faces were obvious as they prepared to board their flight to the nation’s capital.

After screening was completed, JAX officers, canine handlers, airport personnel and police escorted the veterans to the checkpoint. The TSA JAX Honor Guard presented the colors as they stood tall.

“As we started the escort, I noticed that several of the veterans, each tested by combat, began to tear up when they saw the outreach and pouring out of support,” said Lead TSA Manager Tim Brookshire.

The escort also featured a Scottish bagpiper.

“The hairs on the back of my neck stood up when he began. It was truly a special event with serious significance,” said Brookshire. “The sound of the bagpipes echoed throughout the entire airport and made one feel proud and humbled at the same time. As a Marine, I was honoring those who went before me, and I am sure my team felt the same.” 

Supervisory TSA Officer Elmer Davis, a member of the special forces community, said, “I was totally humbled as tears began to fall from my eyes.”

First oast Honor Flight and many of the veterans and guardians said they appreciated the warm welcome and support, and they truly felt special that their service contributions to the U.S. were admired and respected.

Miami International Airport

Honor Guard photo
Miami International Airport TSA officers salute a veteran on his way to an Honor Flight. (Photo by Tim Lewis)

Miami TSA officers helped expedite screening for more than 70 Korean and Vietnam War veterans as they prepared to depart for the nation’s capital.

Deputy Federal Security Director Tim Lewis was moved by the experience, saying, “As a Vietnam era veteran myself, it brings joyful tears to help honor these men and women who were not celebrated for their service back in that day. It’s nice to finally get it right for them.”

The TSA MIA Honor Guard, along with other local honor guards, stood at attention and presented the colors before the veterans boarded their flight.

On behalf of the MIA Honor Guard, TSA Stakeholder Liaison David McClain said, “We thank the veterans for your service to our great country and may God bless each and every one of you to whom we all here owe so much. This is a debt that can never be repaid in our lifetime.”

Miami-Dade Aviation Department Operations Strategic Manager Hiram Barroso had this to say about the honor guards: “What an incredible job! The faces of the veterans as they walked through your detail was priceless. I cannot thank you enough for the assistance and participation in this humbling and important event.”

Birmingham honor flight photo
A veteran goes through security at Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport before boarding an Honor Flight. TSA Manager Melissa Jones (right) looks on. (Photo by Ed Downing)

The honor guard members from TSA MIA who participated were Lead Officers Katherine De La Rosa and Shawn Flaherty and Officers Anjelica Pulido, Adriana Sanchez and Thorne Williams.

Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport

TSA Birmingham opened a dedicated lane for the veterans to expedite the screening process as they got ready to board their flight to see the war memorials and other sights in Washington, D.C.

“We thanked each and every veteran for their service to our country,” said Assistant Federal Security Director Ed Downing. “The process was seamless and made the process easy for our heroes.”

Downing added that TSA Birmingham received numerous compliments for their treatment of the veterans.