By Steve Markman
A small group from Post 587 in Dayton, Ohio flew to Washington D.C. as part of an Honor Flight on September 7, 2019. The five post members joined more than one hundred others on the trip. There were six World War II veterans, 13 who fought in Korea, and the rest served in Vietnam.
Honor Flight is a nationwide program that flies veterans to Washington, D.C. to see their memorials. The trip is free for the veterans, funded solely by private and corporate donations. Our trip was sponsored by Frontier Technology, Inc., a defense contractor with offices around the country.
We left Dayton International Airport at 6:30 a.m. and landed at Reagan National Airport at 8:00 a.m. As we taxied down the runway, fire trucks sprayed a water canon salute over the aircraft. The ground crew lined up next to the plane to wave American flags as we pulled into the gate. More than one hundred others greeted us inside the airport with cheers and more waving flags.
We boarded buses and headed to Arlington National Cemetery along with a police escort to see the Changing of the Guard ceremony. From there, we drove past the Iwo Jima Memorial, then stopped at the Air Force Memorial for lunch. After lunch, we headed to the Lincoln Memorial, and then walked to both the Vietnam and Korean War Memorials. I lost count of how many times visitors on the National Mall came over to welcome us to D.C. and thank us for our service. Our last stop of the day was the National World War II Memorial.
All of us on the trip served in the days before email and text messages. A letter from home handed out during mail call was usually the highlight of the day. During our flight home that night, Honor Flight called out our names and gave us each an envelope stuffed with letters. The letters were from kids and adults who wanted to express their appreciation for our military service. Honor Flight even had our family members write letters to put in those envelopes.
When we landed in Dayton, Honor Flight had one last surprise waiting for us. After getting off the airplane, we were led toward the main lobby of the airport by a group of bagpipers. In the lobby, there were at least a thousand people cheering and waving flags, as well as a band and even an honor guard from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Although we know attitudes toward those who served in the military has changed since the height of the Vietnam War, this experience was still overwhelming.
If you’ve ever thought about going on an Honor Flight trip, I highly recommend it. You’ll have a great day and experience appreciation from your fellow citizens for your service. If you live near an Honor Flight hub, you should go to the airport to help welcome veterans home from their trips. We’ve added that as an activity for our Dayton post members.
Volume 73. Number 4. 2019