The Unexpected Life Lesson of the Honor Flight

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It was late at night when my phone rang … a facetime call inviting me to join the experience.

I answered immediately.

I’d been thinking about him all day – since his first call had been just after sunrise that morning.

He was tired and emotional after having spent the day with 73 other American Veterans on their “Final Mission” (I tear up every time I see those words) to Washington DC.

Their ages spanned several decades, branches of the military, and calls of duty … each one sacrificing on other shores because they chose to serve on behalf of others … for love of country and countrymen.

Collier – Lee County Honor Flight

Collier County Honor Flight’s mission is to transport local Veterans to Washington, D.C. to visit those memorials dedicated to honor their service and sacrifices.

Ten days ago, Collier Honor Flight #16 honored those brave military warriors with a day of respect and recognition.

My dad, the cute guy in the cap and a World War II Veteran, was one of those honored!

My dad and nephew, Ryan, in Washington DC with Collier Honor Flight for Veterans

Throughout the day, they visited the memorials on The Mall and The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington Cemetary.

Collier County Honor Flight makes it a mission to transport local Veterans to Washington, D.C. to visit those memorials dedicated to honor their service and sacrifices.

I will always remember when I answered his 9 PM call, my dad didn’t want to talk about the monuments or the changing of the guard at Arlington … all he could talk about was the people. The kindness of the Collier Honor Flight Team who saw to every need with joy and enthusiasm.

As we talked again the next day, He teared up when he told me about the reception they received … especially as they returned to RSW Airport in Fort Myers.

My dad served in the Navy in the mid- 1940’s. It’s been a long time since anyone has thanked him for his service to the country, and yet on May 5th, hundreds of people came out late on a Saturday night to salute and applaud individuals who had quietly returned to civilian life decades earlier carrying countless memories in their hearts and minds.

My dad said the thing that overwhelmed him most throughout the day was the JOY! Not the joy of the veteran recipients … but the joy exhibited by those who made the day possible.

The Unexpected Life Lesson of the Honor Flight

The JOY of serving others

Dad and I have talked about it several times this week and he tears up every time. How special they made each person feel! How every need was met! How hearts were encouraged and blessed!

And my dad said…

“Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could have that attitude in the church!”

And I would add … in our communities.

Is it possible that finding joy in serving others could be the uniter of our culture divided by ideology, stereotypes, social identities,  etc?

My dad went on an Honor Flight and came home with a powerful life lesson!

What if we looked at one another with kindness and got to know hearts before we judged and dismissed?

What if we looked up from our devices and saw faces?

What if we made serving one another with joy a priority?

And what about our churches…

What if every visitor to our churches were greeted like those we invite into our homes – with joyful hospitality?

What if every church was full of people worshiping with joy – like they meant it?

What if loved and served each other before we disagreed and divided?

What if?

Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans…

 For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. If you serve Christ with this attitude, you will please God, and others will approve of you, too. So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up. Romans 14:17

 Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. Romans 12:10

And to the people in Philippi, he wrote…

Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon. Philippians 4:4–5

I don’t believe the Holy Spirit would have inspired Paul to write these words if we weren’t supposed to make serving one another with joy a goal.

My dad went on an Honor Flight and came home with a powerful life lesson! #CollierHonorFlight

I know, you’re overwhelmed! You already have too much to do!

But the truth is, you don’t have to add one thing to your schedule to start serving with joy today!

Here are just a few ways to add joyful service to your day:

In Your Community…

  1. Look everyone in the eye and smile at them.
  2. Open doors for people.
  3. The next time you text a friend ask them how you can pray for them.
  4. Pay attention to the people around you and stop to help where you can. (I’m tall. I love reaching things off the top shelves at stores for those who can’t reach them.)
  5. Look behind you when you go through a door and hold it for the person behind you.
  6. Pass the first shopping cart to the person who came in behind you and take the next one,
  7. Pray and ask God to show you where He wants you to serve with joy!

At Your Church…

  1. Look everyone in the eye and smile at them.
  2. Say hello to someone you don’t know.
  3. Offer to help a mom with restless children.
  4. Praise your pastor and members of the music team.
  5. Look for things to love rather than things to criticize.
  6. Participate – Worship with joy!
  7. The same as #7 above – PRAY!

Think about ways you can add joy to serving your family, at work, or online. We’re going to do many of these things anyway … so let’s add some joy and make it more fun for everyone.

Can you imagine how much better you’ll feel if you add a little joy to what you’re doing already?!

I believe we can do this!


I believe our joyful service shows people the love of Jesus. It may just be the thing that opens a door to someone wanting to know more about Him.

Remember the early church…

They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved. Acts 2:46–47

They Served Others with Joy! We can too!

A huge shout out and thank you to everyone involved with the Collier Honor Flight #16. A special thank you to Rick Wobbe, for his kind interactions with the vets and their families and Mamie Blue for sponsoring this flight. Our family thanks you all!

Also, a thank you to my nephew, Ryan, who graciously took the time to travel with and serve as guardian for his grandpa for the flight!

One last thing…

Yesterday, May 13th, was my dad’s 93rd birthday! We are so very thankful for him. If you have a minute – stop and wish him a Happy Birthday in the comments below.

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  1. Happy and Blessed Birthday, Deb’s Dad, and thank you so very much for your service to our country! May endless joy abound in you!

  2. Alprescia says:

    A Great Big shout out to Deb’s father “HAPPY 93rd BIRTHDAY!” May God continue to bless you richly.

    1. Richard Wobbe says:

      Oh my, Thank you from the bottom of my/our hearts!!! Your kind words mean so very much to us all here at Collier Lee Honor Flight. Our veterans mean the world to us! Every one of them, you see, we are a family. Love is easy in a family. Jesus is love, and a teacher, the Holy Spirit gives us the words, and we fly on the wings of angels with our cargo of angels. What could be easier than that? Thank you for writing this beautiful article Deb, and happy birthday to you David Samuel, WWII Navy hero!!! Thanks to Sean and DrDeb, they are our very heartbeat of CLHF

      1. THANK YOU! Seeing my dad’s face as he called from RSW that night and talking with him throughout the week as he’s relived precious memories are treasures I will carry with me forever. And yes, a thank you to Sean and Dr. Deb. All of you at Collier Honor Flights are setting a beautiful example of love and encouragement, serving with joy … we can all learn much from you! May God richly bless you as you love on our veterans!

  3. Love this story and tribute, Deb! I can get those emotions when I see an honor flight ceremony as well. My husband served in Vietnam and I know what selfless acts of service military men and their families give us. Thanks for sharing this great story and powerful testimony!

    1. Thank you, Pam! A big thank you to your husband!! God bless you both!!

  4. What a fun story, Deb!
    So glad he had a great trip!
    And, I love all of your joyous kindness tips!

  5. Sandy Couser says:

    Congrats to your dad! Glad he experienced JOY! Jim’s uncle, now 95, went on the Honor Flight quite a few yrs. ago. My dad served in the army. He had a stroke at age 70, and lived in assisted living till 2 yrs. ago when he died at age 89. He would have loved experiencing the Honor Flight!

    1. Thanks, Sandy!!! I’m so thankful for the men and women who serve our nation. It’s inspiring that there are so many people volunteering their time, energy, and money to say thank-you! It’s so great to hear from you! I hope you and Jim are thoroughly enjoying retirement! Have fun! Blessings to you both!

  6. Happy (belated) birthday Deb’s Dad. My Dad would have been 95 on the 5th of May, he too served his country in the British Merchant Navy. I love your generation for all the sacrifices that were made so that future generations would be able to live the lives we do. I thank you and send love and blessings. xxx

  7. Hi Deb, I loved this post! My father-in-law got to go on the honor flight last year so our family got to experience first-hand that joyful service you spoke of. And I was struck by your dad’s comment about having that attitude in the church. Yes, I nodded. Then you gave practical ways to do that! Thank you, Deb! I love your blog and your heart.

    1. Thank you, Alyson! I’m so glad your dad-in-law was able to experience an honor flight, too! Thank him for his service for us! Yes, my dad’s words really hit me … I knew I had to write about it! Thanks so much for your kind words. You totally blessed my day!! Hugs!

  8. Happy 93rd Birthday Sir!! Our family is deeply grateful for your service and valor. You truly represent THE GREATEST GENERATION! Even now you offer us all such a tremendous example of gratitude by your recognition of those who served with joy during your trip. God has blessed us through you.! May He continue to bless you abundantly! Happy Birthday!

  9. Happy Belated Birthday to Deb’s Dad. I so enjoyed seeing the pictures and the JOY on his face. My Daddy, Robert A Dukes, served in WWII also. He was in the US Army, 5th Calvary. We have his WWII Calvary uniform framed and hanging on the wall in our great room in our home. Wish I could include a picture. Below it sits the US flag draped with his dog tags presented to our family at his death in 1987. There’s a man that attends our small church in Josephine, AL (across the bay from Orange Beach, AL) who also served in WWII. He and your Dad are the same age. We have the highest regard for him. And, we discovered he worked where my Dad did in NW Alabama after the war. Such a blessing for me to have that connection to my Daddy. Deb, enjoy your Dad and the blessing you have had to have shared life with each other so many years.

  10. Jenni Hinrichsen says:

    A wonderful bright Happy Birthday ???????????? to you David Samuel all the way from SOUTH AFRICA- Be Blessed from head to toe as you continue to enjoy your God given life with your family and friends ????????????

    1. Thank you, Jenni! That is very kind of you! I will pass your kind wishes on to my Dad! God bless you!

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