Today, I flew on a Southwest Airlines flight from Louisville to Baltimore. I routinely fly this route, on this airline--but this time it was different. Profoundly different. On board, were 38 veterans of World War II who were flying in to see the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. for the day. It's a fabulous program that is run by volunteers and donations under the "Honor Flight Tri-State" organization.
During the hour and a half flight, I listened to the awe-inspiring stories of these great Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines. Most of them had never met each other before--all were from the State of Ohio. But for some of them, it was a reunion. One B-17 pilot I met had just learned that the Tuskegee Airman sitting beside him had flown security for some of his bombing missions over Germany and Italy. Another Soldier had discovered that the Marine sitting beside him was a 3rd Grade Classmate.
Both boarding the airplane and prior to deplaning, this esteemed group of veterans received well-deserved ovations. Today, we are losing our World War II veterans by an estimated 1200 per day.
I wondered where we found men of such character and courage...who willingly flew their bombers under the most formidable odds during the Doolittle Raid, who scaled Riva Ridge, who landed into the Normandy surf amidst heavy machine gun fire and artillery? Who were so willing to sacrifice themselves for our freedom so many decades ago?
My answer came in a quote worn by one of the volunteers who accompanied the veterans:
"Some of us get to stand on the curb and clap as they go by."
-Will Rogers To learn more about the Honor Flight Program, go to www.honorflighttristate.org
To learn more about the Honor Flight Program, go to www.honorflighttristate.org