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Friday, October 29, 2010

Honor Flight

This post is not motorcycle specific, but I believe most motorcyclists will find it very interesting.

Honor Flight program started by Earl Morse in Ohio in 2005 for the purpose of flying World War II veterans to Washington DC to see the WWII Memorial that was not completed until 2004. Link to history of Honor Flight

The Honor Flight website states that in 2008 WWII vets were passing away at the rate of 1000+ per day and most had never seen the memorial to the brave men and women that freed Europe from the clutches of Nazi Germany and secured freedom in the Pacific from Japan.

The program provides the trip, all accommodations, and extras to the veterans at no cost to them.  The volunteers that accompany and assist the vets (many need assistance with walkers, wheelchairs, medical equipment, etc) pay for their own expenses.

The program has grown quickly and is now in several states and cities.  The waiting list of veterans is long and growing as more hear about the program.  Please visit the Honor Flight website for more info.
In the spring of 2010 my father, a WWII vet  and a Purple Heart recipient who served in Europe, was notified by Honor Flight that he was chosen for one of the trips with Honor Flight of Dallas.  (One of my nieces had sent in an application for him).  Dad asked if I would consider going with him - I was so honored and answered yes almost before he finished the question.  (I had heard about Honor Flight so I knew what he was talking about).

Our trip to see the memorial was October 18 - 19, 2010.  It was awesome!

Prior to departure the USO at the Dallas-Ft.Worth (DFW) airport served breakfast for the veterans in the Admirals Lounge.  It was very nice and the veterans were treated great and will so much respect.  As they boarded the plane the USO volunteers & passengers from other flights clapped and waved flags. Each vet was given an Honor Flight shirt, windbreaker, cap, bag of snacks, and a blanket made by one of the USO volunteers.  There were many misty eyes.

As the plane taxied out the DFW firefighters gave a water cannon salute - one truck on each side of the plane.  The firefighters at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport gave another water cannon salute after the plane landed.
My dad as he arrives in DC
When the veterans arrived a crowd was waiting for them with signs, flags, and a lot of cheering.  One of our brave men in the Navy had asked if the Honor Flight vets would witness his reenlistment.  The reenlistment ceremony took place at the terminal after the vets were situated.  It was a moving moment for the vets, the crowd, and the navy solider.
The swearing in at the reenlistment ceremony
We loaded up on the two chartered buses and rode to our first stop, the WWII Memorial.  The men (no female veterans on this particular Honor Flight) toured the memorial in reverence while memories of friends and loved ones came to them.  The memorial pays tribute to the men and women who lost their lives, the families back home, the factory workers, the women who entered the work force for the first time, and all of the Americans who contributed to the ultimate victory.  There is too much in the memorial to try to describe in a single post.
I was honored to visit the memorial with my dad PFC Wendell Osburn
The inscription is so fitting.
The 40 veterans on the trip at their memorial
The red shirt volunteers admiring the heroes.
The second stop on the trip was in Arlington Cemetery at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider.  We witnessed the guard making his "rounds" as he guarded the tomb.  Four of the vets were randomly chosen to place a wreath at the tomb.  After the wreath was placed we were able to watch the changing of the guards.
Arlington Cemetery is a solemn reminder of the price of Freedom
Tomb of the Unknown Solider
An honored duty - guarding the tomb
Heroes of WWII placing a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider
Walkway in Arlington National Cemetery
Prior to loading the buses most of the vet walked to the nearby grave of Audie Murphy, the most decorated soldier of WWII.  Many left quarters on the tombstone in honor of his nickname, Two-bits.

That night a banquet was held at the hotel for the veterans and volunteers.  A color guard from Ft. Myers presented the colors and led us in the singing of the national anthem.  If you have never heard a room full of vets sign our national anthem you should!  The pride and reverence of the vets is inspiring.
Honor Guard at the banquet for the WWII vets
The second day Honor Flight visited Walter Reed Army Hospital where they spoke to wounded soldiers, medical staff, and had a surprise visit by Senator Bob Dole.  The senator, the staff, and current soldiers showed a lot of respect and admiration towards the vets, shaking their hands and telling them "thank you for your service."
WWII Vets visited with staff and soliders at Walter Reed Army Hospital
We then visited the Marine Corps War Memorial a.k.a the Iwo Jima memorial.  The bronze statue is the largest cast bronze statue in the world.  It is very impressive and inspiring.
Marine Corps War Memorial - depicting the raising of the flag on Iwo Jima
Veterans and volunteers viewing the memorial
The final scheduled stop on the trip was the area where the vets could visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial National Monument. and the Korean War Veterans Memorial.
The sobering walkway into the Vietnam War Veterans Memorial
So many names
Three soldiers looking at the wall as if looking for their friends
Lincoln Memorial as seen from the WWII Memorial
Impressive
Korean War Memorial 
The weather was great and there were no complications so we were able to make two unscheduled stops before heading for home.  We stopped by the United States Navy Memorial and the Air Force Memorial.

The Lone Sailor at the Navy Memorial
Just one part of the Air Force Memorial that overlooks the Pentagon
The inscriptions at the Air Force Memorial seem so appropriate with the veterans in the foreground

While on the bus the vets were able to see the White House, the WWI Memorial, The SeaBees Memorial, the Pentagon, the Jefferson Memorial, the Washington Monument (the Washington Monument can be seen from a lot of locations), and various other historical sites.  The bus driver also took us down "Embassy Row" where all the worlds embassies are located - that was interesting.

Once on the flight back to Dallas it was discovered that an Admiral from the USS Nimitz was on the flight heading back to San Diego and the USS Nimitz.  He addressed the veterans and communicated his deep respect and admiration for them.  The vets were very honored.

There is really no way to adequately describe the emotion, the atmosphere, the scene... as these heroes toured all of these memorials.  They are such humble men and women with a heart for our country. If you know a WWII vet please tell them about the program.  They deserve the honor and recognition.
Vets touring the WWII Memorial
If you see a veteran or current member of our armed forces please show them your appreciation.  Every time I start my bike and I get to enjoy a ride I am reminded that this freedom was gained, protected, and continues to be protected at a great cost.
Everyone sacrificed and worked for victory and lasting freedom
The Washington Monument viewed from the WWII Memorial
The Capitol Building as seen from the bus (sorry about the glare)

I respectfully salute the Armed Forces of America - past, present, and future defenders of freedom.

6 comments:

  1. Very moving read. My grandfather also was in the war. He has died now, but he would of loved this kind of thing. I will give it to you Amercians you look after your veterans. A very special moment for you and your dad.

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  2. Your grandfather's service to freedom is greatly appreciated. The USA does a decent job of taking care of our vets, but some don't get the help they need. We are trying to improve in that area.

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  3. That was one of the best posts I have ever read on any blog. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. The things the people did for the vets that made that visit were amazing and I learnt from reading your post just how much Americans like to honor and thank those that served. Thanks for writing this terrific post Oz. Please thank your Dad as well, for allowing us to share in his visit to see the memorials.

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  4. This is a wonderful post Motoroz. I would have been balled up in a corner crying my eyes out for sure. This is such a wonderful cause and please thank your father for me and God Bless him for his service to our country.

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  5. There were a lot of tears of this trip. It was a great trip.

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  6. Excellent story, thank you for sharing and also for the info on Honor Flight.. My Dad is a WWII vet and I was honored to spend Veteran's Day with him just a few weeks ago..

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