Local veterans honored with socially distant parade, 100th birthday celebration

TAMARAC. FLA. (WSVN) - Dozens of volunteers paid tribute to local veterans and their families with a patriotic parade that also served to celebrate one honoree’s 100th birthday.

7News cameras captured the procession, accompanied by a police escort, as it made its way down a residential street in Tamarac, Monday.

Veteran Bennett Gottlieb said he was deeply touched by the parade.

“When I came home from Vietnam in 1967, I was spit on and called ‘baby killer,’ and I took my uniform off and never put it on again.” he said.

Wearing a U.S. Navy baseball cap, Gottlieb saluted the procession as it passed by his home.

“Thank you for your service!” yelled a man who was inside one of the cars in the parade.

“Thank you for your support,” replied Gottlieb.

More than six decades after his service, emotions overwhelmed veteran Joseph Ravallo.

“I can’t tell you how it makes me feel,” he said as he fought back tears. “I feel like a baby. I start crying like a jerk.”

The event was organized by Honor Flight South Florida, an organization that schedules charter flights that take veterans to Washington, D.C., to visit the monuments that marked the conflicts in which they served.

Organizers said the coronavirus pandemic led to flight cancellations, putting them in a position to make those painful phone calls.

Rick Asper with Honor Flight South Florida revealed what he said to the veterans who had been scheduled to board flights this spring.

“‘The airlines aren’t flying. The memorials are all closed. We promise to catch up with you in or fall flights,'” he said.

But Asper said not all veterans they know will ultimately join them.

“One of the greatest tragedies is getting to know that veteran who’s going to fly with you in a few weeks or a few months, who’d been waiting sometimes a year or more to have their flight, and then find out that they just passed,” he said.

That’s why organizers came up with the idea to hold a parade.

As it turns out, the event included a very special stop at the home of veteran Arthur Schorr.

“I’m at a loss for words,” he said.

Schorr, who served in the Army Air Corps, took part in an Honor Flight last year. It happened to fall on his 99th birthday.

Honor Flight volunteers said visiting Schorr as he celebrated his 100th birthday was the least they could do.

“This is as spectacular as that day was,” said Schorr after volunteers and loved ones sang him “Happy Birthday.” “This is absolutely spectacular, and I thank each and every one of you. I’ll never find the words to say what I’m feeling.”

Honor Flight volunteers said they’re hoping they’ll be able to have Honor Flights in the fall.

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