I witnessed a great start to Veteran’s Day today. Upon arrival at Ronald Reagan National Airport in Washington, DC this morning I had the rare opportunity to be included in welcoming a very special flight. An announcement came over the public address system that an “Honor Flight” was arriving and anyone wishing to acknowledge the Veterans aboard could congregate at gate 38.
I have seen Honor Flight participants preparing to welcome Vets before at this airport but never stopped to learn more. Today I stopped and found that “Honor Flight Network is a non-profit organization created solely to honor America’s veterans for all their sacrifices. They transport our heroes to Washington, D.C. to visit and reflect at their memorials. Top priority is given to the senior veterans – World War II survivors, along with those other veterans who may be terminally ill.”
I ambled over and saw that members of the West Point Alumni Glee Club were tuning up. The flags of the services were displayed, Mylar balloons floated above the gate, American flags were being passed out and a few volunteers in bright green shirts were milling around. Before long I was joined by more people and we were given a small flag to wave. Within a 10 minute time span a corridor of participants formed, three to four deep on both sides, ranging from babies in carriages to seniors. The line went from the gate, through the checkpoint, down the hall, through the upper level lobby, through the lower level lobby to the baggage claim area. My rough guess is that nearly 1,000 people participated, waving the flags, cheering and clapping as the Veterans from World War II and Korea filed out of the plane making their way to the baggage area. Because many were in wheelchairs it took approximately 40 minutes to deplane. The crowd stayed until the last Vet passed, the whole time remaining boisterous and animated.
The Vets had no Idea they were going to be greeted, let alone receive such a reception. The look on the faces and tears in the eyes of Vets and participants, young and old, was quite sobering. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, an estimated 640 WWII veterans die each day. Our time to express our thanks to these brave men and women is running out.
I would like to add my personal thank you to fellow Veterans of all generations who have served our country with distinction and the families that support them.
As written by Tom Lash, President & CEO of TAD PGS, Inc.