This was a few days ago and really deserves its own thread. I don’t have time to post that, so here it is - share and share alike...
I was blessed to have the honor of accompanying my father to Washington DC Sept. 17th, 2013 on the West Coast Honor Flight. My official capacity on this trip was as a Guardian for a WW II Veteran. The day started arriving at 0400 (4AM) at the Allegiant Airlines gate at the St. Petersburg - Clearwater International Airport. Greeting everyone was the ground crew from West Coast Honor Flight with handshakes, slaps on the back and a hearty breakfast from McDonalds. Once everyone arrived, there were 80 veterans and 80 guardians plus 20 of the ground crew. We boarded the flight and headed to Baltimore International Airport for the bus ride to Washington DC. Arriving in Baltimore, we got our first glimpse of how the day was going to go. Several uniformed service men and women greeted each vet, welcoming them to Washington and as we headed for the buses the people heading off to work or heading on vacations would stop and clap and yell. Thank you for your service”. It was a very humbling experience.
We boarded the 3 buses that were needed to transport all of us and the wheel chairs to our first destination - the US Air Force Museum. Once there, we were able to view not just this remarkable museum but we could also see many of the sites surrounding the area. The weather was spectacular as well and that gave us time to learn more about our vets as well as the sites we came to visit. The hosts provided a sack lunch. Then we headed off for the Korean and Vietnam Memorials. There they gave us ample time to wander the large area and visit each memorial and witness the amazing outpouring of gratitude that we encountered with the others who were visiting the parks. Perfect strangers walked up and shook the hands of the hero’s, asking to take a picture with them. You just couldn’t remove yourself from the strong feelings from watching this remarkable event.
You should have seen the faces of the veterans as they looked at the memorials and read the descriptions engraved in the stones surrounding these sacred places. Our next stop was the World War II Memorial. We gathered all the Veterans for a group picture and then escorted these hero’s around to see everything that could be seen. Here again perfect strangers coming up to congratulate these men and women. We even encountered a group of active Army soldiers that were in uniform who quickly gathered these vets together for another picture but with these soldiers standing at attention saluting the hero’s before them. What a site!
Afterwards we boarded the buses for the ride back to Baltimore and our flight home. Once arriving back in Clearwater these men and women discovered what a real Hero Welcome is all about.
There were hundreds of people gathered at the airport with flags waving. Large banners welcomed them home. The Star Spangled Banner, Army and Air Force personnel and even a Brigadier General shook each man and woman’s hand and thanked them individually once again for their service. It was a site to behold. Before they departed for their homes they marched by the 4th Degree Knights of Columbus. The Knights saluted them and then were involved in picture taking with the Bomber Girls in front of a huge American flag.
This is a day that will live in the hearts and soul of each man and woman as well as their guardian who went with them on this glorious day.
Thanks, George. I so wish my dear dad were still around to see the memorial.
For those of you who would like to experience this vicariously, buy or rent this:
It's a must see!!