A Florida teen helped a formerly homeless veteran fulfill the trip of a lifetime.
Army Veteran William Dread, who served as an officer Vietnam, took his Honor Flight to Washington, D.C., last week thanks to the generosity of a young friend, WFLA-TV reported.
Dread had fallen on hard times and was living on the streets in Lakeland, Florida, when he met Emily Cornelius.
“I decided I would go back on my military training and bought my tent and I just camped out,” Dread said.
Cornelius, who was 12 years old at the time, was working on a school project with the local homeless community.
“She just had a big smile on her face,” Dread said.
Cornelius said that Dread “stood out” to her the most. Dread told her that he felt “like a true veteran” after she gave him a care package, and the pair formed an unlikely bond that has lasted five years.
Cornelius and her family rallied local organizations to help Dread move into an apartment and furnish it. The two have become so close that Dread even attends Cornelius’s softball games.
“She’s the best pitcher around,” he said.
When Cornelius, now 17, caught wind of the upcoming Honor Flight for Vietnam War veterans, she used the power of the community again to raise enough money for Dread to go. She was by his side when they took off from Lakeland’s Linder Airport as his guardian.
Dread said he’s always wanted to see the nation’s capital and its monuments.
“It means so much you can hardly put it into words,” he said.
While there, Dread planned on visiting the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and seeing the names of two men who died while saving his life during the war.
“They jumped on top of me to shield me from a mortar,” he said.
Cornelius said Dread and others who served the country “deserve the best” because “they risked their lives so we could live here.”