Honor Flight Network Experience

| By Casa de la Luz

World War II was a dark time for our country.  Our very existence as a free nation was threatened.  At the end of the war more than 400,000 of our military had given their lives in order to preserve our freedom.  Many more came home with scars that would never heal – both physical and emotional, but they returned to their families, picked up their lives, and carried on.
Today, our World War II veterans are dying at a rate of 1,000-1,500 people per day.  Most have never seen the memorial in Washington, D.C. that honors their fight for freedom.
Honor Flight Network is a non-profit organization created solely to honor America’s veterans for their sacrifices.  Arizona is the 28thstate to set up a hub and is part of the national network.  Their goal is to fly as many WWII veterans from Arizona to Washington, D.C. to see their memorial without any cost to the veterans. Priority is given to those who are disabled or terminally ill.
On Wednesday, September 21, I was once again honored and privileged to be a “guardian” and medical support on an Honor Flight with 30 World War II veterans from the Tucson area and approximately 20 guardians.
World War II Memorial, Washington, D.C.
Thursday was a full day with visits to the memorials for World War II, Vietnam, Korea, Iwo Jima, Women in the Military, and Air Force. We also watched with awe the changing of the guard at Arlington Cemetery.  I stood at the Korean War Memorial by one veteran with tears in his eyes as he recalled how alone and scared he had been during combat and remembered his fallen comrades.  Many others told stories of flying bombing missions or being hit by shrapnel.  Memories, once buried, came flooding back.  We guardians were there—to listen, offer comfort or just be with them silently.
Everywhere the veterans went they were greeted with applause and cheers, which again brought tears to their eyes – long awaited recognition for their service to our country.
With as many tears that were shed (by all of us) there was just as much laughter and camaraderie.  This is my second Honor Flight, and I am again amazed by the strength, determination and passion these folks have, both for life and country.  Most are in their late 80s and there were five over 90 years old on the trip.  My veteran, the only female, was a WAC and Captain – almost unheard of back then.  She will soon be 92. 
I am humbly honored to have been in their presence and feel so very fortunate to have taken this walk through history with them. The Greatest Generation?  Absolutely. This Honor Flight trip again reminded me why.

For more information on Honor Flight, go to www.honorflightsaz.org.

by Jana Davis, QAPI department

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