A 95-year-old World War II veteran died mid-flight while returning home Monday evening from an Honor Flight trip to Washington, D.C., where he visited the National World War II Memorial.
Frank Manchel, who served in the U.S. Army during the war, collapsed during the flight, Honor Flight San Diego said in a statement on Facebook. Medics aboard the plane were unable to resuscitate Manchel.
"It is with our most deepest sympathy that we send our condolences to the Frank Manchel family," Honor Flight San Diego said in a statement on its Facebook page. "Mr. Manchel passed away on the flight to San Diego last evening. He collapsed and resuscitation measures were taken but he could not be revived."
Honor Flight is a nonprofit organization dedicated to honoring military veterans who served during WWII, the Korean War, and Vietnam War. The organization provides all-expense-paid trips to visit the memorials in D.C.
One of Manchel's sons, Bruce Manchel, was aboard the flight when he died. The son was traveling with his father as his guardian on the trip.
"Frank Manchel was so excited to go on Honor Flight," Bruce Manchel told Honor Flight San Diego.
Other family members joined them in the nation's capital.
"To be with both of his sons as well as his 93-year-old brother who met him in Washington, D.C., was so special," Bruce said. "My father's passing was the ending to the most amazing weekend, surrounded by his newest best friends."
After his passing, Manchel's body was draped in an American flag that the organization carries on every flight.
"There were two Chaplains on the flight as guardians who said prayers for him as well," the organization said. "Retired San Diego Police Chief Shelly Zimmerman was a guardian for another veteran and was instrumental in helping with protocol once the flight landed. Medical personnel, firefighters, and law enforcement saluted Mr. Manchel as paramedics escorted his body to the tarmac."
American Airlines, which provided air travel for the Honor Flight recipients, has offered to fly Frank Manchel and his family members at no cost to Michigan, where the veteran will be laid to rest.
"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," Bruce Manchel said. "Frank passed quickly and peacefully and the compassion and respect that that was shown to our family will be treasured always. May he rest in peace as he is now with his other beloved son Jimmy."