Jim Arcuri struggled on his cane toward the doorway at the Disabled American Veterans Chapter 18 on Friday morning.
The Sarasota widower felt every bit of his 88 years.
Four of them with the 4th Marine Division in the South Pacific.
Never miss a local story.
Twenty of them as a New York City policeman.
“When I retired my wife told me, ‘No more carrying a gun. You’re through playing a hero,’” said the Brooklyn, N.Y., native.
Yet Arcuri will gladly embrace the hero treatment one more time.
Today he is among a contingent of area World War II veterans who are guests of Southwest Florida Honor Flight for a one-day journey to Washington, D.C., to visit the World War II Memorial and other monuments to their generation’s sacrifices.
“At my age and physical condition, this is a last hurrah,” Arcuri said.
It is for Sarasota’s Armand Bonneau, as well.
The 90-year-old widower was a B-24 crewman, who flew 52 missions out of North Africa against German targets in Italy and southern Europe with the 376th Heavy Bombardment Group.
“Flew across the Mediterranean so many times, the Alps, too,” said the New Bedford, Mass., native.
Today’s flight to the see the WWII monuments has a special attraction for him.
“My name is on one of them,” Bonneau said.
The veterans will receive an honor guard at both Fort Myers International Airport and Ronald Reagan Washington International Airport.
They’ll also visit Arlington Cemetery, the Iwo Jima Memorial, the Navy Memorial, the Korean War Memorial, and the Vietnam Memorial.
“We’ll see every monument up there if we get the chance,” said John Raber, junior vice commander at DAV Chapter 18, whose donations help subsidize Honor Flight.
This is the second trip his post has participated in and it’s worth every dime.
“These veterans come back with smiles on their faces, happy. They get the royal treatment. It’s something they never experienced,” said Raber, 46, a veteran of Panama and Gulf War I with Army Airborne.
Nearly 1,000 WWII veterans are dying daily, according to published figures, so there is an urgency to the trip.
“It’s something we feel like we need to do for them,” said Vernon Isham, DAV 18’s chaplain and a Vietnam veteran. “If it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t be where we are now.”
Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 745-7055.