A Proper End: War Veteran Dies Onboard The Flight Honoring Him

by Chris Dong

Sometimes the stars just align. While death is a somber topic — especially how someone passes — for one war veteran, this may just have been his ideal way to go.

Frank Louis Manchel was a San Diego-based World War II veteran who was on his final leg of an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington D.C. The journey was sponsored by Honor Flight San Diego, one of 141 nationwide chapters that provides WWII veterans visits to the U.S. capital.

A Trip To Honor Vets 

Manchel had just spent the weekend in D.C. with other veterans as well as members of his own family, including his two sons, Bruce and Howard, and 93-year-old brother, Jerome. On the “honor flight” back to San Diego on a chartered American Airlines flight, Frank Manchel suddenly collapsed in the aisle an hour from landing. Two physicians, including his own son, could not resuscitate him after repeated attempts at CPR. Manchel was 95.

Photo from Honor Flight San Diego

Passengers and family onboard said the veteran was in great spirits all weekend and even in the moments leading up to his death.

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.”

While the plane was descending into San Diego, passengers began collectively singing “God Bless America” in a moving tribute to Manchel, and the plane was filled with song.

His fellow veterans saluted Manchel as they exited the aircraft and American has offered to transport the body back to his family in Michigan.

The Upshot 

Death is incredibly difficult no matter the circumstance. However, Manchel passed away honorably with loved ones and on a trip that probably meant the world to him. If there was a way to choose when to go, this probably would have been it.

Thinking about the moving God Bless America tribute, with all passengers onboard singing, had me a bit teary eyed. My thoughts are with Manchel’s family.

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