Frank Manchel, 95, passed suddenly on his flight home from an all-expenses-paid trip for veterans to the World War II Memorial in Washington, DC.
Surrounded by fellow patriots and accompanied by his son, Manchel was happy and laughing in the last moments of his life. “It was almost instantaneous,” said Dave Smith, founder of Honor Flight San Diego. “He was laughing, chatting, having a good time — and then he collapsed.” His son is a physician, and he and another on board attempted to revive Manchel with no success.
“My father’s passing was the ending to the most amazing weekend, surrounded by his newest best friends,” Dr. Bruce Manchel said in a statement on Monday. “We thank all of you — Honor Flight San Diego, American Airlines, San Diego International Airport, friends, and supporters for your concern and for allowing the weekend to be so special for all of us to share together.”
San Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman, daughter of another veteran on board, led the entire plane in a chorus of “God Bless America” in remembrance. Manchel was shrouded in an American flag, and his fellow heroes saluted him as they disembarked.
Manchel is the seventh veteran to have died on the trips provided by the Honor Flight organization. “We know this is a potential situation,” said Smith. “We want to honor these veterans, but this is one of our worst fears that this might happen. We do everything we can to make sure these veterans are safe.”
Zimmerman had nothing but praise for Manchel and the way he was treated. “He was 100 percent engaged, proud, humble — as these veterans are,” she said. “You could just tell how proud they all were of him. It was just wonderful, a loving, loving family.”