Yesterday it was my privilege to act as a guardian for a group of WWII Veterans on a flight to Washington, DC with the Honor Flight organization. I went on this trip to accompany my Father, who served with the 3rd Infantry Division in Italy, France, Germany, and Austria. WFAE, an NPR station in Charlotte, NC, just posted a story about him.
Honor Flight is a nation-wide effort to get Veterans to Washington, DC so they can see the monuments and memorials to the wars that they fought in. It’s particularly urgent now to get World War II Veterans there because, well, time is running out for them. They’re all in their 80′s and 90′s now. If we don’t do this now, we’ll lose our chance.
As you might imagine, it’s a HUGE logistical challenge to get a plane-load of people of their age to Washington, around the city, to the memorials, and safely back home again. It takes a chartered airliner ($$), chartered busses, wheelchairs, food, doctors, EMTs, nurses, guardians, police escorts, the TSA, probably a million other things I don’t know about, and a lot of organization to pull it all together. It’s all done with donations and volunteers. No Veteran pays a penny, and they’re given the red-carpet treatment.
With all that, I am impressed with the way Honor Flight gets this done. There’s always glitches, but the skill of the organizers and volunteers is evident. The guardians are trained so we know how to take care of these folks, and no Veteran is left alone.
These Veterans, men and women (and yes, women served in combat areas, and many lost their lives doing it), gave up some of the best times of their young lives, and some gave up much, much more. They saved this country, and many others, through their efforts and sacrifices. And yet, they came home, those who came home, and went right back to their lives. They never asked for a thing, or even really talked about the war and their experiences. As Tom Brokaw said, they are the “Greatest Generation”.
Now it’s time we recognize them. With the dedication of the WWII Memorial, my Father began to tell his stories, and what stories they are. This person who was always making me to go bed on time, eat my vegetables, go to school, and do my homework, now I find out was blowing up barb wire on amphibious landings and running a flame thrower. Wow. How cool is that??
If you know a Veteran, talk to them. Get their stories. We need to capture them. These are the people who Really Know what went on. You don’t have to be a brilliant conversationalist. All you really have to do is just ask “Where did you serve?”, and listen. I’m lucky: my Father is still with us and still telling his stories. Don’t let any more get away from us. Tell them about Honor Flight if they haven’t been to Washington, DC, and help them get signed up.
As I was talking with a co-worker today, he mentioned that he wanted to go to Washington and see the WWII Memorial, and show his respect. I told him that the best way to show his respect would be to support Honor Flight. Make a donation, volunteer, go as a guardian if you can.
I’ll let y’all figure out who’s who in this picture. Then go to http://honorflight.org/ and do something. Those of you in upstate South Carolina can go right to Honor Flight Upstate SC and click on “Get Involved”.