The family of a World War II veteran hoped to honor their dad in his native Michigan so that his lifelong friends and fellow veterans could be there, but the pandemic made that impossible.
Still, the daughter of veteran Lester Smith and his new friends made sure he got the sendoff he earned.
“I said, ‘We are going to be OK. Us girls will miss you a lot, but we’re going to be OK, and it’s OK for you to go on. Go to Mom and Uncle Marv and Grandma. You can go,’” said Pam Costabile, Lester’s daughter. “He never took another breath. It’s hard to talk about it, but I guess I need to.”
“When we hear the Taps, it always chokes me up,” said Michael Slone, the post commander for Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4174 in Lehigh Acres. “There’s just a bond there, brotherhood, sisterhood, family. I don’t know exactly what he went through, but I can share some of the experiences that all of us go through.”
“I knew Les for just a year and a half. But it surely was a pleasure and an honor when we would play cards,” Richard Modica said. “Someone would say, ‘Give me a good hand,’ and Lester would say, ‘I’m giving you five cards. What you do with them is on your own.’”
“I’m a guardian and volunteer for honor flight. My third mission was with Les,” said Greg Pellot, Lester’s honor flight companion. “He didn’t think it was exceptional. He just said, ‘I did what I had to do for our country.’ And he was a humble man. He was very selfless and didn’t take any credit for the risk he took.”
“The Bible says, ‘There’s no greater love than a man who would lay down his life for his friends,’ and Christ said ‘You are my friends,’” Slone said. “These people are willing to lay down their life for their friends, for their country, for what they believe and what they stand for, and I believe that every veteran should get a nice send-off.”
“I’m glad we did it,” Pam said. “That’s all I can say. I’m glad we did it. He deserved it.”