Salute to Tom Smith – Collier County Honor Flight Mission 13

“There aren’t too many of them left and this is a wonderful opportunity to honor our veterans and acknowledge their military service,” remarked Dave Rice of Marco Island, a longtime friend of Irving “Tom” Smith.

Honor Flight Mission 13 was a very special Mission. It took off on May 13 from Fort Myers airport and carried with it a precious cargo of seventy WWII and Korean War veterans. Among them was Irving “Tom” Smith, who fought in the South Pacific when the Marines island hopped from one battle ridden island to the other on their way to Japan.

When the war was over, Tom Smith attended Penn State University and played football and lacrosse. He obtained his Masters Degree from Columbia University in New York City and after graduation he taught school and coached football in Greenwich, Connecticut. This is where Tom met Dave Rice who hired him as an assistant coach for Western Connecticut State University.

In Washington DC, the Honor Flight veterans toured the WWII Memorial, Korean War Memorial and the Vietnam Memorial. They also witnessed the changing of the guards at Arlington National Cemetery.

Upon their return back to Fort Myers Airport, they were greeted home by a crowd of 1500-2000 well-wishers, family members and friends complete with honor guards.

Camperships awarded to TBE students

The Friends of Tigertail Beach, Inc., has awarded three camperships to students in Tommie Barfield Elementary’s 4th grade to attend a camp at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida during the week of July 24-28.

To quote from The Conservancy’s website, the camp is “Wetland Wonders – A Journey Like No Other! Marshes, swamps, bogs and more! Wetlands are amazing places and we want to experience all their wonder. Prepare to get soggy as we explore these squishy habitats and the amazing animals that live there.”

To win the campership, the students were asked to prepare a project of any sort – a poem, an essay, artwork, dialogue, etc. – that has to do with the natural environment where we live, for example, birds, turtles, insects, native plants, or tidal conditions. They were also asked to tell the judging committee why they think they should be chosen for the camp.

A panel of six judges determined that the winners are Lucas Chustz, Linda Roloff and Hassam Ali.

Lucas chose to write about native gardens and their importance to our native species of animals. To quote him, “If everyone created a native habitat garden in their yard, then there would be more habitat available for threatened wildlife such as burrowing owls and gopher tortoises.” This is an excellent insight into environmental issues.

wrote a first-person article in which she was a newly hatched burrowing owl which ate a grasshopper exposed to pesticides, got sick, and was treated and healed at the Conservancy animal hospital. Following her cure, the owl was returned to her burrow.

Hassan Ali also chose to write about burrowing owls, and his essay was more scientific than narrative, briefly explaining the early life cycle of the bird. He also included numerous photos of nesting burrowing owls.

Calusa Garden Club awards scholarship, campership

Calusa Garden Club of Marco Island recently awarded a college scholarship to Joseph Politi, Jr., a graduating senior at Marco Island Academy.

In addition, last month the Garden Club awarded a campership to Florida Federation of Garden Clubs’ Camp Wekiva to Kacie Swanson, a fourth-grade student at Tommie Barfield.

Politi will be attending Florida Polytechnic University in Lakeland, Florida in the fall, where he plans to study mechanical engineering.

Swanson will be attending a week-long session of Wekiva Youth Camp, a co-educational summer overnight nature camp sponsored by the Florida Federation of Garden Clubs.

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