The honor was mine…

Another week?  Another early morning flight yesterday.

i arrived at Washington National Airport at 7:30 am.  My meeting was south of the city at 2:00 pm.  i had tried to set up other meetings, but ended up with a lot of time to kill.  Rather than rush over to the rental car counter and drive headlong (and sleep-deprived) into rush hour traffic, i decided to snooze at the airport.

Now that i’m on a first name basis with the north African women at the Gordon Biersch brewery on Concourse C, i stopped in for breakfast.  From there?  i found a corner to go to sleep.  My superpower is being able to sleep anywhere.  i was asleep within minutes.

i was awakened around 10:00 am by the sound of a trumpet.  Unmistakable sound of a warm up.  And then a baritone horn.  What the fuck?  School kids on their summer trip to the capital?  Playing a game called “Annoy the sleepy Travel People”?  Grrr….

But the ‘warm up’ sounds were better than high school. Shook off my ‘sleep funk’ and got up to investigate.

Brass Quintet at Gate 35.  Balloons.  What the hell?  Marines?  School kids with flags?

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An Honor Flight* was coming in from Fort Wayne, Indiana.  When the WWII Vets come in to visit the WWII memorial, these folks have a welcoming committee.  Music.  Decorations. Greeters. An ad hoc audience of whoever happens to be on the concourse when they get there. This happens a few times a week, organized by the “Honor Flight” non-profit organization…

As they started to deplane, the quintet played military marches.  A crowd of cranky business travel people assembled.  And we stood there clapping for a half hour as seventy men in their late 80’s and 90’s came through Gate 35.

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The last dozen off the plane were in wheelchairs.  Wheelchairs pushed by Marines in full dress uniform.

That’s when i completely lost my shit.

Young kids.  Barely old enough to shave.  Young men and women who have already had a few tours of duty in our current war.  Pushing men who had been that age when they went into the unknown.  Both signing on a dotted line that says “Yeah.  I’ll die for my country. Even though I’m probably not really sure what that means.”

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Had to hit the restroom and completely re-do my face before i went to the rental car counter…  Damn it.

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“We can’t all be heroes. Some of us have to stand on the curb and clap as they go by.”  Will Rogers

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* The Honor Flight Network is a non-profit organization that transports veterans to  Washington, D.C. to visit those memorials dedicated to honor their service and  sacrifices.  At no cost to the veterans.  Nice.

35 thoughts on “The honor was mine…

  1. This organisation is a wonderful one about which I can’t say enough good things. My grandfather, a veteran of WWII, got an all-expense paid trip to Washington, accommodations with other veterans, and even wheelchair service for when he grew weary and tired. He had the time of his life, and came back home with stories and photos we treasure today. He passed away a few years ago, and this trip was the last he would enjoy. What a beautiful thing to offer our men and women of the armed services!

    • good to see you here, freespirit! this organization is pretty amazing… and when they run out of WWII vets, they’re working on Korean war vets… then Vietnam… and someday? it’ll be Gulf War, and the current wars… makes me a bit cranky that we’re still creating so many combat veterans. Glad your grandfather got that trip!

  2. Oh wow! I have a huge soft spot for our military veterans, so this is really wonderful to hear. They deserve this and so much more! It’s so moving to see the young ones behind the vets! Awesome post, daisyfae! Thank you!

    • it was a little surreal to be standing there… gate agents, business travelers, vacationers. at attention for 30 minutes. applauding until our hands hurt. and that quartet never stopped playing… i wasn’t the only one crying.

    • so far. it’s grown fast from a very grass-roots organization to a large non-profit, with regional hubs. the cynic in me worries that they’ll end up on the “Komen” path… but for now? they’re on it…

  3. I dated a guy once who was finishing residency to become a Dr. He was a Marine Officer in the Gulf War. He didn’t make it to his 20 yr mark in the Marines because he just couldn’t do another tour. He saw too many horrors and just couldn’t do it again. Had I not dated him and had the opportunity to truly talk to him, I would have just thought he was the older funny resident who decided to go to med school in his 40’s.
    His stories amazed me and I was shocked that he didn’t have PTSD after some of the things he went through and saw.
    Honor Flight is awesome. What a wonderful way to pay tribute to those people that so many of us forget as we run around in our daily lives.

    • i know quite a few vets… past and present wars. most don’t talk much – and i don’t pry. but war is smelly and horrid. and there will always be wars. just don’t know how to get around that… very cool that your friend went to med school.

  4. Reminded of my wife’s Grandfather who passed away about 10 years ago now. He signed up early in WWII just after Dunkirk. He was in artillery. He was the second 25 pounder crew off a landing craft on the English beach at D Day. He lost half the crew in the water. He met up with similar on the crew behind him, they abandoned their gun damaged in the water. 3 hours later he was reforming another crew due to the casualties and they’d advanced maybe 150 yrds. He went right through to Germany never coming home until 6 months after VE day.

    He never spoke about it … until one of the big parades once 50 anniversary or something, we were near by on holiday and I said I’d take him to the Portsmouth one if he wanted. He turned to me with steely eyes but with tears rolling down his cheeks – “I remember but I don’t ever want to celebrate that” he said. That was the day he told me his story and then later he gave me a dagger he relieved a German of – clearly hand to hand combat. In the end my wife and I sold it to a collector, we decided it wasn’t a safe thing to have in the house really. I cannot begin to imagine what that generation saw. We owe them a debt of honour difficult to ever express. I regularly on 11th Nov stand in silence at our local war memorial – it is the least I can do. There won’t be many years left where we can express it directly to those that were there as the years finally take there toll.

    • yes. everything you said… i think the WWII generation kept a lot of the messy stuff to themselves. i know my ex-FIL did. Bataan. Apparently he didn’t talk much about it. As he aged, there were a few stories here and there. But he didnt even really belong to the group that got together for reunions. It was past. He didn’t want to go through it again. Onward…

      i’m one of the biggest hippies on planet earth. and i still put my hand over my heart and take off my ball cap for the national anthem. and at parades when the vets walk by? absolutely…

    • it’s very touching… have been reading more stories about the Honor Flight. my ex-brother-in-law is apparently involved… and they are doing something good. they’ll even get to the Vietnam vets. and those guys could use a bit of thanks…

  5. There are a number of vets in my family, all of them, remarkably, under 30. For too many of them, the war continues, even after returning…

    Lovely post.

    Pearl

  6. My Dad was a WWII vet of the Western Pacific. He got to go on one of those Honor Flights and it was a superbly organized thing. He LOVED it, and felt so special. I am so glad that he got to experience this before he died. I can’t say enough good about this organization. They really do get it right.

    When he arrived back in Columbia MO, he and his fellow vets were greeted by an honor guard of Harley Davidson riders, over 400 motorcycles formed a motorcade to take them back to the hotel from the airport. They fell in behind the buses and then as they travelled down the freeway towards Columbia, two by two the motorcycles passed them until they were being led into town. He said there were tail lights of their escort as far as you could see up the freeway. When he related this, it brought tears to his eyes. Mine too.

    • A great story! This is something that is done right – both organizationally, and the ‘flash mob’ style support that comes along with it… the motorcycle escort sounds simply divine!

  7. Pingback: THIS is how we honor our war heroes! Beautiful! « A TowDog

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