Utah Honor Flight – Day 2

“The memorial honors the 16 million who served in the armed forces of the U.S. during World War II, the more than 400,000 who died, and the millions who supported the war effort from home. Symbolic of the defining event of the 20th Century, the memorial is a monument to the spirit, sacrifice, and commitment of the American people to the common defense of the nation and to the broader causes of peace and freedom from tyranny throughout the world. It will inspire future generations of Americans, deepening their appreciation of what the World War II generation accomplished in securing freedom and democracy. Above all, the memorial stands as an important symbol of American national unity, a timeless reminder of the moral strength and awesome power that can flow when a free people are at once united and bonded together in a common and just cause.” wwiimemorial.com

After a good night’s rest, we were prepared for a day full of adventure. The staff at the Westin served up a delicious breakfast to get our morning started right. then the buses were loaded and heading to Washington DC.

First stop, World War II Memorial and the National Mall.  The veterans and their guardians explored the National Mall which includes the World War II Memorial, the Vietnam War Memorial, the Korean War Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument. At the World War II Memorial we had a special visit from Senator Orrin Hatch. After the National Mall, we took a short bus ride over to the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial. You know what they say… A picture speaks a thousand words.

After visiting the National Mall we traveled to Arlington Cemetery to visit the Women’s Memorial. After this we visited the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. We were there during the changing of the guard ceremony. Reverence and respect.

That evening when we returned to the hotel we were treated to a heroes dinner. It was lovely. A speaker spoke about his father who had served in the Air Force but rarely shared stories about his service. This father has since passed away and the son would like to know more about his father’s life. He encouraged each veteran to go home and share all their stories about their service in the wars and he encouraged each family member to ask questions.

At the close of the dinner each World War II veteran was given a victory medal replica. On each medal it says “FREEDOM FROM FEAR AND WANT and FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND RELIGION.”  Our veterans have given us those freedoms for their service. It was my privilege to accompany them on this trip.

Coming up… Day 3

Utah Honor Flight – Day One

“According to statistics released by the Veteran’s Administration, our World War II vets are dying at a rate of approximately 492 a day. This means there are approximately only 855,070 veterans remaining of the 16 million who served our nation in World War II.” National WW2 Museum

World War II was fought from September 1, 1939 to September 2, 1945 with the United States entering the war on December 7, 1941 after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The average age of a World War II veteran today is 92 years of age. The World War II Memorial in Washington DC was completed in 2004, nearly 60 years after the war ended. Honor Flight is a program designed to take World War II, Korean and Vietnam veterans to visit the memorials in Washington DC at no cost to the veteran as a small thank you for their service to our country. The veteran is accompanied by a guardian, usually a family member, to help the veteran. Our veterans were accompanied by sons, daughters, grandsons, and other family members.

We had the opportunity to go to Washington DC with the Utah Honor Flight. Our job on this trip was to document the veterans journey through photos and videos. We came away from the trip with numerous photos and videos but mostly we came away with a greater appreciation for the veterans who fought for our freedoms.

We were gone for a total of 3 1/2 days.

We met in St. George Utah for a send off celebration. We were all given official honor flight t-shirts and hats to be worn every day for 3 days. It was ok, everyone was doing it. One smelly shirt meant 50 smelly shirts. Families said goodbye to the veteran and his/her guardian and we boarded a bus to Las Vegas. We spent the night in a Las Vegas hotel so that we could make it to the airport early enough for that 9 am flight.

The next morning we arrived at the Las Vegas airport and paraded through the terminals with 22 World War II and Korean War veterans amid cheers from other travelers. These weary travelers knew they were in the presence of heroes, men who had fought for the freedoms we enjoy today. The USO provided a continental breakfast at the boarding gate. We were all excited to start this incredible journey. As we boarded the plane, veterans were saluted by TSA officers dressed in neat uniforms as onlookers waved American flags.

Once everyone was settled in and our plane was in the air, the fun didn’t stop. It was time for second breakfast because apparently we are hobbits. All of the veterans, guardians and staff were served second breakfast by the newest flight attendant, LaRea. A little dream come true for me.  I handed out those little breakfast sandwiches like a pro. After second breakfast the veterans had mail call.

Each veteran received a HUGE envelope of letters and cards from their families, friends and school children just wanting to say thank you for your service. As veterans read their letters, we all watched as the smiles and tears spread across their faces. It was fun to see toddler drawings of parachutes and American flags, family photos and heartfelt words of children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. This flight was unlike any other flight I had ever been on. The aisles were filled with people reading letters and hearing stories. Even the flight attendants listened in on the storytelling. The crew on our Southwest flight was amazing. They treated our veterans like family.

Once mail call was over it was time for lunch.  Box lunches with sandwiches, potato chips and cookies were passed out along with the standard airline beverage.  The rest of our journey was filled with more stories. Stories about the war. Stories about life since the war. Stories about families.

When we arrived in Baltimore as the veterans were pushed in wheelchairs through the airplane tunnel again each veteran was greeted with cheering and clapping. For me, it was very emotional. These men had lived a lifetime since they were in World War II and now they are receiving the hero’s welcome they so richly deserved. Passers by would stop and shake each veterans hand and say, “thank you for your service.” It was very touching to say the least.

We then loaded the bus and drove to our hotel where we were greeted by a very friendly staff at the Westin Dulles Hotel. Our veterans were then treated to a delicious chicken pot pie meal. It was so yummy! After our long day of traveling we were all tired. It was time to call it a night because tomorrow we had to be up early to begin our tour of the war memorials in Washington DC.

Welcome Utah Honor Flight

Coming up… World War II Memorial.

Build Your Blog 2015

byb2015I am looking forward to the Build Your Blog Conference this year. I have enjoyed watching this conference grow. I went the first year that it was presented and I learned so much. That first year it was a one day conference packed with good information about growing your blog. Now it is a 2 day conference filled with even more information.

Get registered soon here: BYB2015.

The conference is this weekend, February 20-21, 2015!