I was in Washington, D.C. last year, at the airport, preparing to return home after what I felt had been a productive trip. Little did I know that a productive trip would turn into one of the most memorable and cherished events I have witnessed (and proud to have taken part in), in many years.
It brought back memories of my maternal grandfather, a World War II veteran, and by all accounts, to whomever you ask in my family, he was my everything in this world. Listening to his stories about his experiences during the war, time and time again, and although I knew them by heart, never got old. He was my pride and joy. He passed away in 1990, and he is as much missed today as he was back then.
The experience also brought feelings of pride for Grandpa and many others in the community who sacrified much, asked for little, and proudly defended our country. Many of these brave men and women didn’t return home, and along with those who did, should continue to receive the thanks and appreciation of a grateful nation.
Not realizing what was happening at the time, and not much attention being paid to the announcements, it was the second mention of an Honor Flight arrival, that made me wonder what it was all about…
“Honor Flight Network is a non-profit organization created solely to honor America’s veterans for all their sacrifices. We transport our heroes to Washington, D.C. to visit and reflect at their memorials. Top priority is given to the senior veterans – World War II survivors, along with those other veterans who may be terminally ill.
Of all of the wars in recent memory, it was World War II that truly threatened our very existence as a nation—and as a culturally diverse, free society. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, an estimated 640 WWII veterans die each day. Our time to express our thanks to these brave men and women is running out.” http://www.honorflight.org/
Needless to say there was no doubt as to wanting to see the arrival. Slowly, but surely, as more people gathered, from all walks of life, two lines formed on either side expecting the arrival of these esteemed veterans, waiting for them to deplane.
What happened next still brings chills as I write about the experience. As soon as the first people in line saw that first WWII veteran come up the ramp, some walking, some using walkers, and some in wheelchairs, the clapping would start slowly at first and would turn to a resounding loudness that matched the appreciation of the assembled group. To see and be a part of this happening over and over until the last veteran deplaned was an amazing experience. What truly amazed me was the amount of people that took part, with two lines that stretched from the boarding area all the way to the exit area. Very few dry eyes in the building, and to a man, as you thanked them with a handshake or even a whispered thanks for their service, every last one of those veterans tipped their hat, dipped their head in acknowledgment, or offered a salute to those present. An experience and a feeling of pride that I will never forget.
To our veterans, WWII and all others, I thank you for your service. To our veterans that struggle with Parkinson’s Disease as a result of their time in the military, I owe you a debt of gratitude along with thanks for your service. I assure you that your life lived with the struggles that Parkinson’s Disease brings us, has not been lived in vain, because I promise to continue doing my part, along with thousands of others around the world, to make this disease go away.
My prayers, my best wishes, and my absolute best to you….