October 22nd was a very special day as Patriot Flight Inc. was taking another trip to Washington DC. Patriot Flight Inc. organizes trips for WWII vets to fly to Washington DC and visit the WWII Memorial, all expenses paid!
On this day, I was fortunate to be a guardian/escort for the vets. I was assigned to two 86-year-old men, Bob and Ed, who have been friends for 65 years. They were a pleasure from the second I met them. We boarded a bus in a nearby parking lot and left for the Albany Airport.
An estimated 150 motorcycles and 6 fire companies provided the escort, while numerous police vehicles were traffic blockers for our nonstop ride. They received a hero's welcome at the airport. Bikers, firefighters in dress uniforms,color guard and many others lined their walkway as The Yankee Doodle Band played. The airport never looked so wonderful.
On the plane we went! Aren't they cute! I had a ball! Ed wouldn't let me sit between them; he told Bob he wanted me all to himself.
We talked all day. They told me stories about their lives, and how they still visit regularly. Bob says Ed comes to the house to visit his wife, not him! Ed's wife passed a few years ago. He says he is comforted that she is in heaven and looks forward to being with her again. In the meantime, he flirts with every girl he can! They didn't talk much about wartime, but it was understood that they served their country to the best of their ability and were very proud of it. Today they felt like they won the Congressional Medal of Honor!
They were given red carpet treatment every step of the way. The Southwest Airline crews announced them on the flights and cheered them along. In Baltimore, they were greeted by hundreds of Naval cadets, saluting them, talking with them, thanking them. We ate at the Golden Corral, again being recognized and honored. Even our return to Albany at 10:00 p.m., there were color guards and a bagpiper welcoming them home.
In Washington, we saw the WWII, WWI, U.S. Navy, Korean War, Vietnam, Marine Corp Iwo Jima and Air Force memorials. Clearly, the WWII Memorial was the highlight of their day. It is the most beautiful memorial and it was to honor them.
People greeted them and thanked them for their service. Children shook their hands and thanked them for their freedom. Tears wet my face many times on this day! Before we left the WWII Memorial, we all stood together and sang "God Bless America." To me, this was the most touching moment of the day. Listening to these old and somewhat fragile voices belting out this tune with pride, watching their faces and the faces of all the tourists who stopped to join in was just amazing. I was so honored to be there with these great people.
So, today I thank Bob and Ed for the service they gave to our country, I thank them for my freedom and I thank them for a day that truly changed my life.
Thank you, Lori! And thank you to all the veterans who have served our country. For another beautiful post and poem from my blogging buddy, Colleen Davignon, click here. And if you're new to my blog, please take a moment to read my post from Veteran's Day 2008 about my favorite Vietnam vet.
Happy Veteran's Day, everyone!