Honor Flights: Being in the Presence of Greatness

Honor Flights: Being in the Presence of Greatness

Today is June 1, and patriotic Americans know that we will soon commemorate a very solemn occasion. This  Friday, June 6 , will be the 70th anniversary of D-Day. Many American soldiers lost their lives on that fateful day, and many millions of other lives were changed by the events and years that followed that historic day. We as a nation will never be able to express ample gratitude for those who participated in the storming of the beach at Normandy.

Edward Douglass White K of C Chapter, Arlington

For me, today was an intriguing and fulfilling day. This morning I was excited to have the chance to go over to our local Knights of Columbus Hall to help welcome and serve a meal to two bus loads of Honor Flight participants. A local Knights of Columbus Council regularly performs this service for groups of veterans and their guardians who come into town to see the World War II Memorial and other monuments to our nation’s war heroes.

I was excited to be serving at my first Honor Flight event. Unfortunately, because of unexpected circumstances, the group was delayed in D.C., and their tour leaders decided that there was not enough time for the veterans to come inside the hall and have the meal served to them. They had a special time set for them to go to Arlington Cemetery for a changing of the guard ceremony, so they would have been late if they had to unload the busses and come inside.

Band for Honor Flights
Band that plays for Honor Flight

So, adapting to the change in plans, the band that ad assembled to play patriotic music through lunch moved their ensemble outside to the lawn. At a little past one o’clock, the busses pulled up to the front of the K of C Hall with their Arlington motorcycle police escorts flanking them front and rear. Our volunteers, many of whom have served at dozens of these occasions, took the boxed lunches and lidded drinks out to the Veterans and distributed the meals to them on board so they could eat their lunches on the way to Arlington Cemetery. You would never have known that this was not the plan all along, it flowed so smoothly.

I managed to hop aboard both busses, snap a few photos, and convey to the veterans my appreciation for their service to our country. Amazingly, the youngest of the veterans in the entourage was 87 years old. There were a number of young people among our volunteers, including my fifteen-year-old stepdaughter. Two sixth grade boys who were doing a school service project were filming and taking photos, so I hustled one of them aboard Bus One to walk down the aisle and snap a few photos. He was beaming from ear to ear when he came off. I told him that by the time he is my age there will not be any WWI, or Korean or Vietnam vets left. Perhaps even the First Gulf War Veterans will be gone. They need to take the chance to tell the stories of these heroes, and that is exactly what they plan to do.

Vet and guardians
Bus 1: Vets sat by windows, guardians on aisle
Vets on second bus
Bus 2: Tinted windows gave the busses a mysterious, celebrity-like aura.
Col Gail Halvorsen
Colonel Halvorsen

Having the chance to serve a meal to these honorable men and women was a tremendous privilege for me. I was disappointed that time did not permit us to entertain the group inside as was originally planned. We could have mingled with the Veterans and learned a little about them.

Generally speaking, these Veterans do not desire attention or notoriety. Which is why I was even more astonished after the busses pulled away to learn that there had been a celebrity aboard among them. His name is Colonel Gail Halvorsen, and he was a last minute attendee, not originally signed up for this Honor Flight. He substituted in when someone else was unable to come.

Halvorsen book
The Candy Bomber

Colonel Halvorsen was given the nicknames of the Berlin Candy Bomber, Uncle Wiggly Wings, and the Chocolate Flyer due to his creative and heroic efforts to bring happiness to destitute German children during the Berlin Airlift in the late 1940s. His brave and dedicated efforts helped mend the bitterness that existed between Germans and Americans in the wake of World War II. Even though Colonel Halvorsen is now 93 years old, he recently wrote a book to immortalize his post-war efforts to help stabilize a country still reeling from the effects of war. His book is titled The Berlin Candy Bomber and is available on Amazon.

It seems more and more in recent years that I am very depressed over the direction our country has been headed. Luckily, there are moments like today when my faith is somewhat restored. I am uplifted to see the love that others share for our country, the same love that I learned as a small child and will carry with me to my grave… God willing.

I salute all men and women who have served and currently served in our country’s armed forces. May God bless all of you and your loved ones. And may God continue to bless America!

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  • Merle says:

    In the past year I have only seen one WW 2 vet – they are disappearing fast. All of them in my family are now gone.


    • Donna says:

      Yes, that is the sad reality. We are all getting older. It’s hard to believe when I was a child there were living veterans of the Spanish American War (1898)! And there were people born during the Civil War who were still alive. (Geez, I am old!) Today we have unlimited ways to record the stories of our veterans. I hope at least some of their stories get saved for posterity.

  • Chris in N.Va. says:

    My USN-vet wife and I (USAF, 72-78) ventured forth from our NoVa abode into the Emerald City for a “photo safari” Friday night on a 4-hour photo-class tour of some of the monuments (especially moving time at the Korean, 3-man Vietnam and women’s Vietnam memorials). The nighttime haunting quiet and stark lighting at the monuments, combined with our knowledgeable (although lib) instructor, evoked many emotions and gratitude for the oft-unsung service of so many.

    Too bad my WWII U.S. Army artillery vet dad is no longer alive. I can only imagine his thoughts if he was able to see the WWII memorial. Likewise my wife’s late vet USN vet dad who did hard-hat diving.

    We’re grateful and blessed for so many ordinary folks who routinely did the extraordinary as “just doing their jobs.”

    • Donna says:

      D.C. at night is very impressive. I particularly love the Air Force Memorial at night — which is actually in Arlington, not D.C. The Pentagon Memorial takes on a difference ambiance at night also. Thanks for sharing, Chris!

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