by Mary Borowski, business manager
On September 24 I had the honor of accompanying my father, a 91-year-old World War II Navy veteran, to Washington D.C. on the Never Forgotten Honor Flight. I also was privileged to serve as a guardian for a second World War II Veteran.
Our first stop was the World War II memorial, where a group photo was taken. Taps was played to salute our fallen heroes. As I watched our group be photographed, visitors from Holland asked me about the group and why they were visiting. I explained and they asked me to thank our veterans for saving their country. I noticed these travelers stayed to talk with many of the vets; this was just one of the many humbling experiences that defined the day.
|World War II Memorial|
|Korean War Memorial|
As we waited to re-board the buses, my father and I sat in the park and enjoyied the beautiful 75-degree day. A bus of school children unloaded and a confident young man, nine or ten years old, stopped to greet my father, shook his hand, and said: “Sir, thank you for serving our country.” He then handed my dad a button he had pinned to his shirt that read “I still like Ike.” Goosebumps, oh yes!
The day included visits to the Korean War Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam Memorial, Air Force War Memorial, Arlington Cemetery, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and Iwo Jima Memorial. I watched in amazement at each stop as our veterans paid tribute . . . remembering those who went before them and those who are still with us; men and women who bravely fought to keep our country free.
|World War II Memorial|
|Iwo Jima Memorial|
I could go on and on. The stories told were amazing; the shivers, the sorrows, the joys, and the tears that were shared and felt that day cannot be replicated. I truly believe this was a life-changing experience not only for me, but also for everyone who has taken an Honor Flight trip.
As our day came to a close, with exhausted vets in tow, we boarded the plane for central Wisconsin and a quiet plane ride home. Many vets were sound asleep, and exhausted guardians, too. A few conversed about the day’s events. Another surprise awaited: mail call, just like in the service. To everyone’s amazement, large packages of letters were handed out to each and every vet. Letters sent from loved ones, family, friends, and complete strangers. My dad opened his package and the first letter and said, “I have to wait to look at these tomorrow; I don’t have any tissues.” (Tuesday morning, he read every card, letter, and thank you note.)
The icing on the cake, the final event, was the “Welcome Home” at Central Wisconsin Airport. The vets disembarked to cheers, greetings, hugs, and tears from hundreds of people who created a human corridor from the aircraft gate to the terminal exit. Vets stopped and shook hands with family, friends, neighbors, and complete strangers. It was the welcome home many never received sixty or seventy years ago. This certainly resonated with my dad.
|Central Wisconsin Airport|
The Never Forgotten Honor Flight organization deserves the utmost praise and thanks for their commitment to our country’s veterans.
Because I am a numbers person, I’m closing with these “stats”: the September 24, 2012 flight included thirty-six World War II Veterans, thirty-two Korean War Veterans, twenty-one guardians, three physicians, one journalist, two photographers, six Honor Flight volunteers, two pilots, and three flight attendants all on one very large plane. And, there were countless behind-the-scenes volunteers who make the program run smoothly. I say “thank you” for a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I had the honor of sharing with my father.