Vantage salutes veterans with Heroes cruise

Vantage Travel Team May 27, 2018

The parents may be veteran Vantage travelers, but their daughter is a military veteran who will soon make travel memories of her own. As one of 11 Vantage Heroes and member of Massachusetts Fallen Heroes — the Boston-based military organization that provides advocacy and support services for retired or active-duty service persons — Elisabeth Wells will be setting sail soon on a special departure of France Culinary Delights: Paris to Normandy.

Departing the week of Memorial Day so that the veterans will be at the Normandy Beaches for the anniversary of the D-Day invasion, Wells said before leaving that she was most excited about visiting this important historical landmark — all the more poignant for those in the military — and about the culinary aspects of the trip. “It’s nice to learn new ways and methods to cook, and I love that it’s going to be hands-on. I’ve been reading a ton on the website but seeing the videos of the demonstrations is really exciting.”

She’s been to the Louvre before on a high school trip at age 16, but the retired Air Force analyst she can’t wait to get back to Paris and indulge her interest in art with a visit. “I’m sure a lot’s changed!” she joked.

Wells has two travelers she can trust for an opinion and some advice: her parents, John and Elizabeth, whose first trip with Vantage was also a French river cruise. “They keep telling me it’s the trip of a lifetime, and how beautiful it is. When I emailed my mom, she was SO excited for me and told me I’m just going to have such an unforgettable time.”

Undoubtedly, with 10 of her fellow veterans — and her guest, friend Lauryn Herschell, who also gets to travel for free — the wreath-laying at the American Cemetery is sure to be one of the most somber and memorable experiences, especially since Wells’ brother Stephen passed away while on tour in Iraq as an Army helicopter pilot. That’s how she originally learned about Massachusetts Fallen Heroes, an organization Vantage has teamed up with before to send others affected by tragedy and loss on an all-expenses-paid river cruise, inspired by the transformative and healing power of travel. Other beneficiaries have included families of those on United Flight 93, and Boston Marathon bombing survivors. This year, having almost a dozen brave women and their friends and family members aboard the ms River Venture is particularly poignant for Patricia Lewis, chairwoman of the Vantage Heroes Foundation.

“We’re always trying to give back to others who dedicate their lives to service,” she said. “But this year it seemed particularly timely to honor the women who do so, many of whom serve with children and families on the opposite end of the world, so that we can be with our families.” (Wells has an 18-year-old son with autism, and her parents helped raise him during her time abroad.)

Patricia’s husband, Henry Lewis, started the foundation as a way to honor the sacrifice of his father, Corporal Edward Lewis, who was one of 300,000 young soldiers who landed at the Normandy beaches during the invasion that began on June 6, 1944.

It may not be a typical “beach vacation” for Wells, but she wouldn’t want it any other way. “This came at such a great time. I haven’t been on a vacation in over four years, and never alone — this is an amazing opportunity and I’m so thankful,” she said.