Tuesday, May 29, 2012

My DC Veterans Trip - AMAZING

Experience of a Lifetime

The American Warriors Day of Honor

This Memorial Day weekend I had the honor of assisting a WWII Veteran around Washington DC to see the National WWII memorial and four other memorials.  It was a truly humbling experience. 

The American Warriors are a group of volunteers who raise money to get WWII Vets to the memorial in DC as well as raising awareness for veterans programs.  Check them out.  American Warriors.   They organize a flight for about one hundred vets (twice a year), with four busses, team leaders, guardians and helpers.  Over the five years that AW has been doing this, the number of needed wheel chairs per flight has gone from 30 to 60%, meaning more and more helpers are needed on each flight.  That is where I came in.

I was given the opportunity to travel to DC to meet the flight when it arrived, connect with a veteran and spend the day wheeling him around and keeping him company.  I took the train from CT to DC, stayed in a hotel and joined about 150 other folks in welcoming these vets (between the ages of 86-99) as they got off the plane.  A brass band, kids with signs, active service members, airport staff, and folks just waiting for other flights were there to cheer as these guys landed.  Once it was “wheels down” it was a busy day of getting them situated on a bus, taking head counts, spreading the sun block, passing out water and getting to know each other while we trekked to five amazing memorials.

This is Stan at the wall honoring those
who were lost in WWII.
Let me tell you a bit about Stan.  He was a Marine who served from 1942-43.  He served in the Pacific at Guadalcanal (here’s a little something about this Guadlcanal Campaign.)  He was so excited to be a part of this trip to see a memorial that he said was long overdue.  When we got off the bus and began to weave our way through the huge National memorial he was overwhelmed by the size of it all.  Four sections of the circle have pillars that hold a wreath for every US state and province that participated.  Water features highlight different battles and a wall of 4,000 stars represents the 400,000 men and women that never came home from that war. 

Here is our group of Vets inside the WWII Memorial.
From there we got back on and off the bus for the Navy Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial, Iwo Jima/Marine Corps Memorial and the Air Force Memorial.  All of which were amazing to see (2 I had been to before, 3 I had not). 

We were there on Saturday of the holiday weekend.  On Sunday there was to be the Rolling Thunder motorcycle event.  A ride of over half a million bikers, to bring awareness to the needs of Veterans.  So, when we were going from place to place, it was mobbed with bikers as well as families and it was absolutely amazing to see how folks reacted to these WWII vets.  People of all ages were coming up to Stan and the other vets to thank them for their service, shake their hands, give hugs and even take their pictures with them.  Marines that approached Stan seem to have a special bond with him that was beyond my understanding.  It was so special to see.  A mother walked up and shook Stan’s hand and then had her two children walk up shake his hand and thank him.  It was great to see parents teaching their children to respect these men.

So after a very long, HOT and emotionally draining day we brought theses Heroes back to the Airport.  This is where I left Stan with a hug and a kiss and a promise to send pictures from the day. But for Stan the day was not over.  He still had thank you letters to read on the way home written by school children then to be greeted by family, friends and patriots when he landed at Bradley International.  I have had the privilege of being at the airport when they land last fall, talk about amazing.

There will not be too many more of these honor flights as our WWII are passing away quickly.  When I got home from this great trip, I had the honor of spending an afternoon with my two favorite veterans... my Father and my Brother.

2 of the 17 statues at the Koran War Memorial

Our Vets at the Iwo Jima Memorial

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