Welcoming Our Heroes Home
It is estimated that 640 WWII Veterans die each day.
It is the Mission of Honor Flight to transport Veterans, from all across the U.S.A., on an all expense paid day trip to Washington D.C., in order to visit the memorials.
I suppose for many, it is a time for reflection, for others, a time to put the past behind them, once and for all.
Each man, each woman, dealing with their own personal demons or perhaps having dealt with them, are now free to take this time to simply enjoy the experience. A time in which they will be welcomed accordingly and guided through, making their way to the memorial, which recognizes them and their service to this Country.
A friend and I recently had the honor of welcoming back a group of WWII Veterans, along with Veterans of the Korean War and the Vietnam War.
While awaiting their arrival, I struck up a conversation with the sweetest woman. She was as sparkly as the homemade glittery 'Welcome Home Heroes' sign she held in her hands. She would eventually hand off the sign to a young man that may have been her grandson; free to hug, shake the hand of, chat with...as many returning veterans as she possibly could.
Her husband was on the flight and she had been in communication with him and her daughter, who was accompanying him, throughout the day. Apparently, the word for their day was wonderful, simply wonderful. "The weather was wonderful...he was surrounded by wonderful people...it was just wonderful".
She told me about how he had gone off to Vietnam and that war not only changed him, it changed her. She was young, but she quickly realized that she was on her own and had no choice but to grow up fast. She used the example that no one was going to change her tire for her, she'd have to do it herself.
Somehow they had beat the odds and their marriage had survived...closing in on sixty years.
I think I may have heard her entire life's story, if we hadn't heard the bagpipes announcing their arrival and that would have been just fine by me.
Honoring Our Veterans
We arrived early and there was only a handful of people, I was a little disappointed in the turnout...for all of about ten minutes and then, they started showing up, the people came out. The Color Guard was there to welcome them. Scouts of America, other Veterans and Veteran groups, many families, we even spotted Lady Liberty in the crowd.
They all showed up with flags of all sizes, homemade signs, infectious smiles, grateful hearts and Patriotism galore!
It is such a little thing, a small gesture, but we would soon see that it meant the world to those walking and rolling through, the makeshift passageway of honor, in the middle of the airport!
We were instructed to offer a handshake, but not to squeeze or apply too much pressure, if they could, they would negotiate the handshake.
That was the case; the hands that I shook, squeezed my hand, a couple of them had quite a grip, I am here to tell you!
Many would acknowledge our presence, but kept to themselves. Most of the guardians, I suspect many were family members, were tearing up, thanking everyone and overwhelmed by it all.
I couldn't help but wonder...with each and every one that passed by, what was their story:
- What had they seen, witnessed, had they been wounded in action?
- Did they lose good friends....over there? Wherever that may have been for each of them. I guess the question should probably be, how many good friends did they lose?
- Did they return from the brink of death, to be repaid with a long, long good life or have they felt guilt for surviving?
- Had any of them been spat upon when they returned from Vietnam and were they finally being honored after all these years, for the very first time?
Trip of a lifetime
Currently, there are 130 Hubs in 45 States, assisting in making these trips possible.
In 2018, 21,189 veterans and 19,383 guardians were flown in from one of these locations throughout the U.S., into our Nation's capital, for this trip of a lifetime.
Over 38,000 veterans are on the waiting list.
While the original goal was to provide this trip to as many of our WWII veterans as possible, over time it has transitioned into including Korean and Vietnam War veterans.
If there is an opportunity in your area, to welcome a group home, I would highly recommend it.
For more information or to donate:
Honor Flight Network
Honor Flight is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing veterans with honor and closure.
A day in D.C.
Honor Flight Network
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2019 A B Williams