Space Coast Honor Flight Pays Tribute To Veterans
By Karen Smink // March 24, 2014
Below is a letter is a guest editorial column from Karen Smink.
In January of 2005, Earl Morse, a retired Air Force Captain and physician assistant, offered to take some veterans to see that memorial – a memorial set up in their honor. This trip would be at his expense – a gift to the veterans.
And so, Honor Flight was born.
On August 17, 2013, love for American Veterans took wing again, this time in the form of a benefit concert. Jack Smink, long known for this Tribute to Elvis concerts, has a personal connection to WWII veterans. You see, his father, John Smink, was a WWII Veteran.
June 6, 1944, a 20-year old soldier arrived at Omaha Beach. Alone in his thought, but not alone in his quest to fight for his country, his America, he waded through the waters and performed his job – a job that included seeing sights that no 20-year old should ever see. Veterans don’t often speak of their time at war. There’s a very good reason for that. It is just too painful. Post-traumatic stress disorder is real. You can see it in any veteran’s eyes.
For Smink, reality came when he carried the headless body of his Army buddy to a “safe” zone. Others saw his selfless act. Many years after Smink’s passing, his son, Jack, along with Smink’s widow and Jack’s mother, Laura, were watching a documentary on WWII and Normandy.
An older man, about the age that Smink would have been at the time, told a tale that began to sound more and more familiar with each word. “There we were, gunfire raining all around,” the man recalled. “The sound of war was deafening. We all ran for our lives.”
Jack’s mother insisted that this man on TV was John’s friend. Jack gracefully reminded her that there were many, many young men atNormandy. But, she was not deterred in her belief. “Wait,” she said, “just listen.”
The man on the television told this story. “As I was running from the bombs and bullets, I turned to check on my friend. I was stunned to see my friend, John, carrying the lifeless body of one of our platoon-mates. His entire head was gone. But, John would not leave him on the shores of Omaha Beach.”
Jack and his mother looked into each other’s tear filled eyes as they listened intently to each word of the story. There weren’t many stories told over the years, but this story was one – told word for word, exactly as John Smink had told them, a few times in his short life.
Returning again to 2013. These days, Jack spends most of his days studying the ins and outs of Brevard County Government. However, his love for local veterans remains on his mind. On January 19, 2013, another Veteran’s organization was the recipient of Jack’s kindness.
The National Homeless Veterans Support, Inc., (www.nhvs.us),received $13,006 to help homeless veterans in Brevard County. Jack has a knack for making things happen.
He knew that every penny possible was needed to make this event a success. Knowing that Veterans Homeless Support, Inc., run by George Taylor, President/CEO/Founder, operates on less than a 10% administrative budget, Jack knew he had to honor them by following their business plan.
With a zero dollar budget, Jack started making calls. In no time, Jack’s band, the venue, advertising, and other expenses were donated – everything! All ticketsales and donations would go to the vets – 100% of every dollar. With the success of this event fresh on his mind,he begins to plan the next benefit.
Jack learns of Honor Flight through a local businessman. He researches this organization and learns that everyoneinvolved has a heart for honoring American Veterans. Using the same successful plan that he used for the NHVSbenefit, he begins knocking off all of the elements needed for this show – venue, band, advertising, etc. Then, onAugust 17, 2013, another dream is realized.
By the end of the show, about $45,000 is raised for Space Coast Honor Flight – enough to cover the expenses of two full flights! During a short break in the show, Jack and his wife, Karen, are surprised with an announcement. The Space Coast Honor Flight organization asks them to be guardians on a future flight, as their thanks for hosting such a highly productive event.
On March 22, 2014, Jack, Karen, and 23 other guardians will join 25 local veterans on the first flight of this year. Anyone who has attended these events tells the Sminks that it is one of the most humbling, touching times they will ever witness.
What better way to spend one of the first weekends of spring honoring those who gave so much for all of America.
God Bless American Veterans!