Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Honor Flight Guardians - Part 1

Memorial Day weekend gave us a special chance to honor our veterans and remember those who gave their lives for us.  We were Honor Flight Guardians. You may remember from an earlier post (Nov 14, 2008) we first wrote about Honor Flight.  This organization arranges to bring WWII veterans to Washington DC, at no cost to the veteran, to see the WWII Memorials here.  With these veterans dying at a rate of about 1,200 per day, time is running out for them to see the Memorials of their heroic sacrifice.  To learn more about Honor Flight, click HERE

Anyway, there are a lot of logistics planning and support needed to pull off such an event.  Once the plane load of vets arrive in DC, they need people to accompany them throughout the day, to help them get around, assist in their needs, etc.  Boeing has committed in the past to provide volunteers for Honor Flight missions, as was the case for Saturday of Memorial Day weekend.  As soon as we learned about it, we jumped at the chance to help out.

Our Honor Flight brought 99 vets from the Tennessee Valley near Huntsville, Alabama.  They arrived at Reagan National Airport around 10 AM, where the Boeing volunteers met them at the gate.


We were all provided standard issue Honor Flight Guardian t-shirts, both front and back calling out our affiliation for the day.

As the plane rolled up to the ramp, the ground crew waved the stars and stripes, and the military service flags, to greet our vets (r).  Inside at the gate, crowds awaited their arrival, including a brass band playing 1940's era big band and military music.

As the vets came off the plane, hundreds of people greeted them with applause and handshakes.  It was not just those of us who were serving as guardians that day.  The USAir gate agent made a general announcement a few minutes ahead of time to invite anyone in the area to come join the welcome party, and many did.  Over and over, people told the vets "thank you for your service!".  As they emerged, one by one we guardians connected with the vets we would accompany all day. 

With 99 vets came the escorting team from Honor Flight, including a traveling team of officials and a medical team of 6-8 people.  Add to that all the local guardians and we filled six motor coach buses for the transportation around town.  First stop was the WWII Memorial.

Dan (l) stands with his veteran, John (c), and Barb's veteran Marvin (r).

The morning began with a flag ceremony honoring those from the Tennessee Valley area who had given their lives.  Airman from Fort Meade in Maryland perform the ceremony (l) as the veterans and hundreds of onlookers watch.  In the right picture, John (with camera next to the guy in the red hat) and Marvin (center just behind the guy in the sunglasses) observe the ceremony.

The solemn-ness of the ceremony was evident in the response of some of the vets and onlookers alike.  This set the tone for the day.

Marvin with a fellow vet (l) and John (r) pose in front of the World War II memorial.

Barb poses with John and Marvin.  She is holding a picture of her dad, also a WWII vet who hadn't made it to the memorial, until today.

These men really enjoyed walking around the memorial.  Almost constantly, strangers, tourists, young and old came up to thank these men for their service.  It was moving and humbling to be a part of this and see them honored.

After this the motorcade moved on to other locations.  We will pick up where we left off in the next report.

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