September 7th is a day that will live infamy in our family. Several months ago my sister’s best friend, Betty saw an article describing “Honor Flights.”
“Honor Flights” is a one day event that invites WWII veterans to visit Washington, DC and the War Memorials. There are several “Honor Flights” that leave from different locations from around the country.
My Dad is a WWII veteran. He served in the South Pacific. Dad’s experience was unlike the 1958 movie South Pacific, starring Rossano Brazzi and Mitzi Gaynor where “love blooms between a young nurse and a secretive Frenchman who’s being courted for a dangerous military mission.”
My father’s experience in the South Pacific was oppressive jungle heat and people dropping bombs shooting at him.
Dad’s invitation arrived with instructions to meet on Sunday September 1 in Punta Gorda for a pre-flight meeting. The actual flight was scheduled for the following Saturday. At the pre-flight meeting we were surprised at how terrific some of the veterans looked and sadden by how poorly others had faired. The Air Force and Navy veterans seemed to have aged substantially better than the Army and Marine guys…..I am just saying.
Each veteran was assigned a guardian that would make the trip and provide assistance wherever needed. The guardians were volunteers that each paid $450 for the privilege of accompanying a veteran they had never met. The guardians were the bomb. Oops, probably a bad use the word bomb.
On Saturday we delivered Dad to the Ft. Myers airport at 6 AM. We were met at the terminal by Jennifer ( Dad’s guardian). There was a color guard to salute the veterans as they left the terminal and a fire truck that sprayed a giant farewell water spout as their charter plane taxied down the runway.
When they arrive in Washington they were greeted with attention and applause whenever they went.
Dad saw the WWII Memorial, Iwo Jima Memorial, Viet Nam Memorial, Korean Memorial, Arlington Cemetery, Tomb of the Unknown Solider, Changing of the Guard, Washington Memorial and Lincoln Memorial. There was dinner at the Country Inn Buffet and a flight home with arrival after midnight. A full day by any standard.
When we met Dad at the airport he sprang from the plane like a mouse being catapulted from a teeter totter over a giant chunk of cheese. He had been going straight out for 18 hours and still had the pep of a 60 year old (Dad is 91).
While everyone was thanking the veterans for their service the veterans were thankful for being Americans. Thanks Betty. Thanks Marie. Thanks Jennifer. Thanks Honor Flights.
Shortly before Joy Ann and I pick Dad up at the airport we got a call informing us that my sister’ and her husband’s home had been struck by lightening and was totally destroyed.
Thank God no one was injured. I told my sister, “A lot of great memories in that house. No one was hurt….more memories to come.
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Manzie R Lawfer