Remembering, honoring and thanking
Today is Veterans Day, or Remembrance Day as it is known in the UK.
Before I had done any of my 30 for 30 acts of kindness, I knew several would be dedicated to supporting the armed forces. My dad served nearly 30 years in the US Army and most of my childhood was spent living on military bases around the world. My grandfather and many of my great uncles also served in the military.
I can’t speak about what it’s like to be a military kid these days, but for me, the experiences I had shaped who I am today and I think about the way I grew up fondly and proudly.
When I visit my parents in the DC area, I always try to get in an Honor Flight and last month I was able to be there for three flights in a row. Here is some background information from the Honor Flight Network website, “The inaugural Honor Flight took place in May of 2005. Six small planes flew out of Springfield, Ohio taking twelve World War II veterans on a visit to the memorial in Washington, DC. In August of 2005, an ever-expanding waiting list of veterans led our transition to commercial airline carriers with the goal of accommodating as many veterans as possible.”
Honor Flights come into Washington-Dulles and Reagan National airports and while they need volunteers to accompany the vets around the WWII memorial, they also just need people to come to the airport and give them a fantastic welcome to Washington. You can sign up to be a greeter and you get special access to go gate side. It’s awesome to see all the travelers stop and ask what’s happening and then join the group before they have to board their own flights. The veterans have no idea what’s waiting for them when they come off the jet bridge. I can’t write enough words to explain the reactions the vets have when they see all the people cheering for them. Sometimes there is confusion, but the smiles are wide. The handshakes firm. The hugs tighter. There are always tears.
According to 2011 statistics, we are losing WWII veterans at a rate of 900 per day. To come to Washington to see the memorial is a dream for many of them and the Honor Flight Network works tirelessly to make this a reality at absolutely no cost to the veteran. After the WWII veterans, the organization will do the same for Korean War and Vietnam veterans.
Female vets get the biggest rounds of applause. This one wore a photograph around her neck of her younger self in uniform. Amazing.
Even if you don’t live in the Washington area, there are still many ways to get involved with the Honor Flight Network. If you’re ever waiting at a DC airport and you see these flights arrive, stop by to clap and shake a few hands. I think it does more for you than them. Find out how to get involved.
And if these pictures didn’t move you, check out the Honor Flight trailer:
Here in the UK, Poppy Appeal, a massive fundraising initiative to support members of the armed forces and their families, happens in early November every year. I love seeing so many people wearing poppies and I tear up every time I see a serviceman selling poppies.
So I didn’t stand a chance when this happened.
I was so moved I went straight to the cash machine and then over to this handsome gentleman.
After making my donation, I asked him if I could take his photograph. He couldn’t hear me the first three times. I asked again, louder and clearer.
Surprised, he said, “Oh, yes, but there are younger, good looking men over there!”
I smiled and said, “I like you better!”
And he just beamed.
I’ve made it a priority to support current servicemen and women, military families, and veterans in the US and UK–not just this year but every year. And today I am reminded how thankful I am–for all of them.
Especially this one: