by Christina White, Indianapolis VAMC Pharmacist
The Greatest Generation – those who gave so much. Giving tribute to these sacrifices is a sacred privilege, and the Honor Flight Network recently gave me the opportunity to honor two of my heroes.
Honor Flight Network* is a non-profit organization that honors America’s heroes by transporting them to Washington, D.C. to visit and reflect at their memorials. Top priority is given to World War II survivors and terminally ill veterans. The Veterans’ trips are absolutely free while guardians pay a moderate fee.
On June 7, 2011, I took an Honor Flight with my father and my two grandfathers who are both WWII veterans. We started the morning at 6:00 a.m. at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Airport with registration, breakfast, and a send-off reception. Each person received a t-shirt with a phrase on the back that said, “If you can read this, thank a teacher. If you can read this in English, thank a veteran.” Cincinnati news crews were there to document the group of 88 Veterans making the trip. This was the first time either of my grandfathers had flown in many years, so this was even more exciting for them.
Upon landing in Baltimore, we boarded air-conditioned charter buses and traveled to D.C. to visit the World War II Memorial, Iwo Jima, the Korean War Memorial, and the Air Force Memorial. Each memorial was stunning, but the WWII Memorial was definitely our favorite. It sits prominently on the Mall between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument and honors the 16 million that served in the U.S. armed forces during that time. An Honor Flight staff member gave us a tour of the Memorial, explaining the symbolism behind each structure, quote, and sculpture. The Memorial’s Field of Stars is absolutely breathtaking. This is a wall that bears 4,000 gold stars representing the more than 400,000 lives lost during World War II. It was evident that my grandfathers were proud of their Memorial.
Everywhere we went the Veterans were treated like celebrities. People wanted to shake their hands, take pictures, and thank them for their service. My grandfathers shared stories of their time in the Army and the Coast Guard. When we arrived home at 10:00 p.m., we were greeted by a crowd of friends and family holding balloons and signs welcoming the Veterans home. It was an action-packed day, but the Honor Flight Network takes care of everything, including meals and providing wheelchairs. They even had paramedics available in case anyone needed medical attention. Each guardian was paired up with one veteran and we were responsible for their safety, hydration, taking pictures, and ensuring they had fun. It was an amazing experience and a trip we will always cherish.