I know that I've mentioned it before, briefly, but I was interning at the National Museum of American History when the World War II Memorial was dedicated on the National Mall, and I volunteered that day to hand out pamphlets. I remembering standing on the Mall, surrounded by veterans, and trying to understand - though I knew I never really would - exactly what they experienced and what they sacrificed in order to defend freedom. Their actions were less for themselves than for future generations, for their children and their children's children.
My grandfathers both served - one in Europe and one in the Pacific. My dad's father has been gone for a year now, but The Lady's father is alive and well. He's in great shape and we are so very lucky.
And on November 1, my Papa flew to Washington, DC with his brother-in-law, Harry. They're both eighty-five year old WWII veterans.
They flew for free.
In fact, the entire trip was free. Honor Flight Michigan flies Michigan veterans to Washington, DC for a whirlwind day. They visit the World War II Memorial, Arlington National Cemetery, and other landmarks. Everything is paid for in full: the flight, ground transportation, meals, wheelchairs, and even oxygen. To be included in a trip, one only has to show his or her discharge papers.
When they arrived at Reagan National Airport, the airport staff and passengers applauded them as they disembarked from the plane.
Looking through the photos, I started crying when I saw my Papa walking into the waiting room at Reagan. I have sat in that room more times than I can remember. I've flown out of gate #5 at least ten times. And there's the gate attendant, on the loudspeaker, announcing to the entire waiting area that there are national heroes arriving at Gate 5.
Without getting into an honors thesis, war is bad. War is dirty. War should be avoided at all costs. But in 1941, it was the only choice for our country. Today, we are lucky that these men and women made the difficult decision to fight for the country they loved. Because of this selfless choice, we have freedom.
We have choices.
If I can, I will be donating to Honor Flight Michigan this year. What an amazing, wonderful organization. I am so happy that my Papa was finally able to visit the memorial dedicated to him and his comrades.