95 year old veteran passes hours after achieving dream to visit WWII Memorial
A 95-year-old World War II veteran died during a so-called Honor Flight carrying him home from a weekend in Washington, DC.
Frank Manchel was returning home to San Diego, California, after an all-expenses-paid trip to DC honoring WWII veterans when he died on May 5, 2019, the non-profit Honor Flight San Diego said in a statement.
The American Airlines flight was about an hour from landing in San Diego when Manchel collapsed, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported.
Dave Smith, founder of Honor Flight San Diego, told the Union-Tribune that Manchel's death was "almost instantaneous."
"He was laughing, chatting, having a good time — and then he collapsed," he said.
Manchel, who served as an Army technical sergeant in WWII, had flown to DC with 82 other veterans, family members, and volunteers, to visit historic landmarks in the country's capital.
The group visited the WWII Memorial, the Korean War Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, the Air Force Memorial, the Navy Yard's museum, and the military electronics museum.
Manchel's sons, Bruce and Howard, as well as his 93-year-old brother, Jerome, and nephew, David, joined him on the trip.
Bruce Manchel said in a statement on May 6, 2019 seen by INSIDER that his father died after "the most amazing weekend, surrounded by his newest best friends."
"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."
Following Manchel's death, an American Flag was draped over his body, and two chaplains on board the flight said prayers.
When the plane landed in San Diego, veterans saluted as they passed by his body.
Honor Flight San Diego told INSIDER that American Airlines offered to take Manchel's remains and relatives to Detroit, Michigan, at no charge ahead of May 9, 2019's funeral. Honor Flight San Diego's founder will be in attendance.
This is the seventh death to happen during an Honor Flight Network flight, the Associated Press reported. Honor Flight San Diego requires veterans and their guardians to complete medical questionnaires before flying.
In 2018, fewer than 500,000 of the 16 million Americans who served in WWII were still alive, according to US Department of Veterans Affairs statistics cited by the National WWII Museum in New Orleans.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.