Honor Flight

This post was written by Joe after going on a trip with the 16 WWII veterans in our county to Washington D.C. to see the WWII memorial. Hearing the stories brought tears to my eyes. I know actually being there would have been so much more powerful.

Nobody slept much the night before we left. I was up a little before 3 a.m. and picked up one of the three veterans I was a guardian for a half hour later. Joe was all smiles and moved like someone not in their 80’s.

We met up with the rest of our group and headed down to Fayetteville, Georgia, home of Honor Flight Fayette, which put the trip together. The bus ride down was dark and mostly silent. Most of these guys didn’t know each other and talk was sparse. That would change.

In Fayetteville, we were treated to a band, breakfast and given T-shirts. Also there were veterans from all over the state who would be a part of this flight along with our contingent of 10 or so veterans. In all we had about 70 people, veterans and guardians, headed to Washington D.C.

We left Fayetteville in style. The local ROTC members stood at attention, their sabres drawn, creating a canopy for the veterans to walk under toward the buses. A police escort and the Patriot Guard (military veterans with an affinity for motorcycles) took us to the airport.

honor flight

At the airport we got a taste of what was coming. The Patriot Guard went to the gate with us and spent the next 45 minutes talking to the veterans, thanking them and getting to know them. It was wonderful to watch generations of soldiers talk and bond.

A note: The word “thank” in this story is not used like “I thanked the waitress for the coffee.” No, thanking here is done with tears in the eyes, a nod of the head and a pat on the back.

We were at Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta International Airport when Deanna and her mother stopped by just to meet the veterans and thank them for their service. Deanna is in her second bout with cancer and was on her way from North Carolina to Indiana for a special treatment. She was up early and yet was better dressed than all of us. When I mentioned this, her mom started to repeat it to Deanna, but she piped up and said, “Mom, the cancer didn’t steal my hearing!”

Deanna and the veterans talked about differnet types of battles, and it was hard to tell who was more honored to meet the other one. it was one of the more touching moments. Here’s to wishing her a fast recovery.

honor flight

When it was time to board, the Patriot Guard formed a procession and shook the hands of every veteran.

The flight to D.C. passed quickly. A local 5th grade class had written personalized letters to each veteran and these notes were passed out just prior to our descent.

veterans on the plane
From left, that’s Joe, John and Hillard, my three veterans reading their letters.

I wasn’t ready for what came next when we arrived in D.C. The noise coming from the terminal was incredible. Local soldiers waited to push anyone in a wheelchair up the ramp from the plane into the gate. I followed behind John toward the booming cheers and claps.

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More than 100 people waited for us. Waving flags, cheering, clapping, shaking hands and crying. I posted a photo earlier of one of the women who was crying. People would stop eating when we walked past and stand until our long procession passed. Others clapped when we went by.

greeting the veterans

greeting the veterans

On the buses we made our way to the WWII monument. We ate lunch in a tent set up just for us before meeting up with Sen. Bob Dole. Sen. Dole has made it a point over the years to visit the monument whenever Honor Flight brings a group of veterans.

wwII memorial

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That’s Sen. Dole and Hillard.

We made our way at last into the monument. Another local soldier came by on his day off when he heard we were coming and spent the afternoon pushing John around in his wheelchair. Other soldiers were there too, helping out wherever they were needed or just shaking hands and chatting.

wwII memorial

memorial

The monument is an amazing place. One guy in our group ran into someone he had served with but hadn’t seen in 60 years. They recognized each other and caught up on the past six decades. Pretty incredible.

wwII memorial

The monument was especially important to Hillard who fought in seven or eight different locations throughout the war. He carried a list of them on card he wore around his neck.

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Here’s Hillard pointing to just some of the many places he fought in during the war.

We took more photos and walked around until it was time to board the bus again and head back to the airport.

We returned to Reagan International Airport for a special dinner prepared by the USO. The plane flight back seemed like it was filled with a whole new group of people. The cabin was filled with stories, jokes, laughs and the occasional snorer (me, actually). We landed in Atlanta about 9 p.m. and figured the trip was over.

Instead we once again were overcome by the cheers and clapping coming from the gate. This time, despite the late hour, the number of well-wishers was closer to 200 people. There were Air Tran employees, airport employees, travelers and those just wanting to say thank you.

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The woman giving the thumbs-up was one of several people who made it a point to shake the hands of each veteran after they all disembarked from the plane. Our line of veterans stretched down the hall, and Air Tran apologized over the loud speaker, but instead of complaints (with the exception of one guy) it just sent more travelers over to clap and cheer.

We finally boarded our bus and headed home. When we said our last goodbyes before heading home, there was a new connection between everyone that wasn’t there 20 hours earlier.

Two final photos:

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At war’s end.

joe with his veterans
After a long day.

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Hi! I’m a wife to a wonderful husband, mom to a beautiful and active (to put it lightly) kiddo, and fur-mom to 3 crazy cats. I’m a former journalist. I quit my full time job two years ago. Now, I am a freelance writer and a virtual assistant for several bloggers!

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Comments

  1. Laura says:

    So so neat! I can’t believe those two men recognized each other after that long!

  2. Mark says:

    I must confess to having a tear in my eye to after reading such an emotional post. We owe so much to these brave men who risked their lives to give us the freedoms we enjoy today! Thanks for sharing this poignant story.

  3. Maureen says:

    This was a very powerful story. Veterans deserve so much more recognition and support than they get.

  4. What a fantastic opportunity. Sounds like a wonderful time was had by all. As a wife of a deceased veteran, I am always proud to give honor where honor is due! It is due to the ones who secure the freedoms that we enjoy each and every day!

  5. Diane Scott says:

    Tears reading your entire post which is rich and wonderful in details; your photos are amazing; and the woman openly weeping is very impactful! Just an incredible and admirable post, thanks for writing it!

  6. You are so fortunate to have spent time with this amazing group of veterans who gave so much to ensure our freedom. I really enjoyed reading this, and your photos tell such an incredible story as well. Thanks for sharing!

  7. 757jterrell says:

    I enjoyed reading your post. It is very good to see that there are people out there that are giving veterans the support and recognition they deserve.

  8. LIsa says:

    Did this happen on the 1st? A whole group of vets got off of the airtran flight we were boarding at BWI. My whole weddinf party clapped and cheared for them. It was nice!

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