Subscribe to Axios Tampa Bay

Get smarter, faster with a daily look at the biggest stories in Tampa Bay

iPhone showing Axios Tampa Bay newsletter on the Axios app

Tampa Bay WWII veterans celebrate big birthdays

Illustration of a piece of cake with tiers that make the American flag.

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

O'Neil Ducharme has seen a lot in his 99 years. He enlisted in the military at 17, survived the deadliest battle of World War II, fought in two other wars and ran an ice cream plant while in the reserves.

But the best of all those days didn't come until 2016, when he was flown to Washington D.C. to tour war monuments with other veterans. The trip, put on by Honor Flight, ended in a surprise welcome home reception at St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport (PIE).

  • "Coming home that night was the very best day of my life," the Palm Harbor resident told Axios. "My shirt was wet with tears."

Why it matters: The "greatest generation" may be dwindling, but WWII veterans like O'Neil are thriving in Tampa Bay. And they still want to give back to the community.