Two years ago, I took my Dad back to Washington, DC, on the Honor Flight from San Diego that takes WWII and Korean War Veterans to visit the war memorials that were built to HONOR them. On this trip, eighty-six Veterans went, with the average age being 93 yrs. old.
Arriving in Baltimore’s airport, the hallways were packed with hundreds of folks, waving homemade signs, ringing bells, cheering each Veteran, as he/she deplaned. Leading the cheering, was the “Town Crier” (see attached pic). For EACH Veteran, he would loudly introduce him/her, using their rank and full name, waving his bell loudly and announce in a booming voice, ” Now arriving, the Distinguished __________, from San Diego, California. Please make way !!!” Over and over, he’d introduce each one, in a booming voice you could hear, 2 – 3 gates away. This was a huge surprise to the veterans, and VERY emotional. Once all the veterans had deplaned, the Town Crier slowly led the entire group through the airport, waving his bell, loudly announcing every minute or two, “Here yea, Hear yea, make way for the Honorable Guests, now arriving from San Diego!” All airport travelers stopped, respectfully cheering for this procession. Many teary-eyed spectators watched these grizzled Veterans being honored as HEROES.
Later, I spoke with the ‘Town Crier’, and he told me he was the official Baltimore Town Crier. He had been a successful businessman, and wanted to do something useful (and fun), with his time now. He said that he greets current/former Presidents, dignitaries, world leaders, and each of these Honor Flights (from all over the USA). He said that he LOVES his job, and he felt HONORED, “To be able to greet these FANTASTIC men/women, who fought for us, and our freedoms!” It’s a job he does on a volunteer basis.
That airport ‘arrival’ was just the beginning of two incredible days. Watching these Veterans visit the memorials that were built to HONOR them, was priceless. For most, it was really emotional, as they finally realized that we respect the sacrifices they made. Many said, they returned home from their war, went back to work, but no one ever acknowledged what they had done. These Honor Flight trips are aimed towards showing these Veterans that we DO care. Throughout the entire trip, these Veterans heard one theme, over and over … that the Honor Flight San Diego staff and the volunteer Guardians who accompanied the Veterans, were the honored ones who got to do this for these warriors. The humility of the Honor Flight San Diego staff was incredible, and so genuine.
When arriving back at San Diego’s Lindberg Field, there is a crowd of several THOUSAND strangers, families, friends, and active military officials … all going crazy for these arriving Veterans! It’s mind-blowing to watch, and/or be escorting a Veteran through this Welcome Home crowd/committee. Most of the Veterans have no idea what they are about they are about to experience. That’s what makes it so great. It takes about 45 minutes, as they slowly bring these Veterans down the escalators, allowing them to soak up all of this cheering and celebrating. The crowd is amazing, with many reaching out to shake hands and small kids giving them homemade medals, trophies, and cards. TV crews are there, but you HAVE TO WITNESS IT in person, as it’s so much better, LIVE. You will go home, a different person. If you can come support one of these “Welcome Home” ceremonies, it’s AMAZING! (The airport parking will be FREE for those events). As a side note …the Channel 8 News team made a great 20 minute YouTube documentary of the entire trip, and it is fantastic to watch/pass along.
If you EVER get the chance to go on/volunteer for an Honor Flight, it’s two and a half days that will change your life (and your view of the military). Everywhere we went, in Washington, DC, we had tons of strangers stopping us to say, “Thank you for your Service”. It was amazing to watch these 90 yr. old men/women being honored by complete strangers (including families with young kids). Many of these Veterans said it was the best two days of their lives. The entire trip is free for the Veterans, and the funds come strictly from donations.
Anything Honor Flight related comes from my heart, and my hopes for everyone to FEEL what I felt/saw, that one weekend in Washington, DC. It gave me a new perspective when it comes to seeing anything that spotlights our Service warriors.
Thank you Honor Flight San Diego!