Today is not just a day off work.
Today is a day to remember and honor.
Remember those who have fallen and honor those who served.
Just over a week ago, our family had the privilege of participating in a special event to honor some who served.
My dad and uncle both served in the Navy during Vietnam. They recently had the privilege of participating in an Honor Flight.
I had known for a while that they were going, but I had no idea we would be involved.
A few weeks before their flight, I was contacted to help coordinate thank you letters. The Honor Flight coordinators requested that family and friends send letters addressed to the veterans thanking them for their service. These letters were then going to be distributed on their flight home in the "mail call", just as they would have received letters when they served.
Instead of writing a letter, I decided to reprint some of my dad's Vietnam pictures to send along. My dad was not in active combat, so I figured he would have fond memories of his time on base and on the ship, and would enjoy talking with others on the flight about the places he had been.
Thankfully, my parents were out of town, so it wasn't hard to secretly confiscate the pictures...my mom was in on the surprise.
There aren't very many pictures, and I barely recognize my dad, but he still holds his coffee cup the same way.
The other thing they ask is that family and friends gather at the airport for a welcome home party.
Both the letters and welcome home party are kept a secret from the veterans.
Their plane wasn't supposed to land until around 9:00 p.m., the airport is an hour away from our house, and we had a previously scheduled employee event that Daniel was in charge of that day. We didn't really want to go, but finally decided it was important to support my dad.
I'm glad we did.
We all thought it would just be a couple of family members waiting to take the veterans home. When we descended the escalator at the airport, we realized this Honor Flight was a really big deal.
There were people everywhere and more kept coming as the hours passed. They even had entertainment for us as we waited for them to arrive home.
Unfortunately, storms in D.C. delayed their arrival until just after 10:00 p.m.
While we were waiting, we learned a lot about the Honor Flights.
All the Honor Flights are put together by volunteers and the funds are all donated. Each Honor Flight out of Port Columbus costs about $65,000. That is just the cost for the veterans.
This particular Honor Flight had 98 veterans from World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War, including two women. The vast majority were from the Vietnam War.
Each veteran, has a guardian that goes along with them. This guardian is a volunteer who pays their own way, which is about $400.00. Once they arrived in D.C., they were met with another Honor Flight volunteer that acted as their personal tour guide for the day. My dad, Uncle Steve and another schoolmate of theirs, along with their Columbus guardian and D.C. guardian, spent the day together touring Washington D.C, the memorials and all the sights.
While in D.C., they are transported on buses with a police escort. They all have matching red shirts with a special ID badge that recognizes them as part of the Honor Flight. They are provided snacks throughout the day and are treated like royalty at all the stops along the way.
That day, they were one of four Honor Flights in Washington D.C..
Upon arriving at Port Columbus, a special aisle was corded off for the veterans to walk through and be announced. It was like a parade in the middle of the airport.
And remember, the veterans had no idea any of this was happening.
There were lots of smiles, hugs and tears.
This is a picture of Uncle Steve and Dad.
We were just there for my dad and uncle, but it was very moving to see all the emotion of the veterans as they walked that aisle. I don't know much about the Vietnam War, but I do know that there weren't many welcome home parties. This is what they deserved years ago.
We also had a special surprise for Dad and Uncle Steve.
Their dad served in the Army, and this is the flag that graced his casket.
It is a family heirloom. One that needs to be passed down for generations to come. They both immediately knew what it was and how I ended up with it. I couldn't think of a better time to pass it on.
Inside that box are my grandpa's medals.
A picture and his Selective Service papers.
This is some of our welcome home crew.
Patriotism was on full display at the Honor Flight welcome home party. Everyone was decked out in red, white and blue (as were we, but only by accident).
I approached the evening as just another thing on my to-do list, but I left with pride in our country, the men and women who fight for our country, and gratitude for all those who volunteer and donate to create such a special opportunity for our veterans.
To be honest, I am ashamed that this wasn't more important to me.
I learned what a magnificent program the Honor Flight is and that it isn't just for veterans and their families. This is a program for all Americans.
My generation hasn't experienced real war that has affected every part of our lives. Yes, we have sent our soldiers oversees to fight wars, but it hasn't affected my daily life. I just read the news...and then go on about my day. I don't have any friends or family members in harms way, and it isn't something that consumes my thoughts. I am another American who dons a red, white and blue shirt for patriotic holidays and may attend a parade every once in while.
That's enough, isn't it?
Not really. This Honor Flight taught me there is so much more to being patriotic. It is putting my feelings into actions.
There are so many ways you can be involved in the Honor Flight program. From donating funds, to volunteering on the Ground Crew, to e-mailing family members to write letters, to being one of those that writes the letters (even if you don't know the person), to paying your way to be a guardian for the day.
Which by the way...what better way to get a personal tour of our nation's capital than to be a guardian...and you get to meet some amazing people in the process.
For more information on how you can participate in Honor Flight click here.
You might also like...
Hello! I am Heather... the city girl turned mom to manure loving country boys. My husband and I both grew up in the city, but spent weekends visiting grandparents in the country. We are first generation farmers who learn best by almost always doing things the hard way. I hope you enjoy following along with our adventures down on the farm.