Saturday, October 16, 2021

Local Veteran Thanks Honor Flight

Photos by Edward Saeks

From 2:15 AM till Midnight of November 2nd, I experienced a once in a lifetime event! Honor Flight #21 from Lee/Collier county and escorted by my guardian Darryl Johnson was at least overwhelming, and at most the epitome of my love and appreciation for our country and its citizens! Arriving at Reagan Airport and being greeted not only by interested folks, but travelers stopping whatever they were doing to clap and cheer and hug, expressing appreciation for our service to the USA!

It didn’t stop until we were boarding the buses and as you might expect, my eyes were filled with appreciation and joy. This reception continued through our landing in Ft. Myers near midnight and we were greeted by 2000 to 2500 persons, from cub scouts to old folks, all expressing the same message: “Welcome Home! THANK YOU your for service to our country—for helping keep our country and the world free.” Singing, clapping, salutes and hugs from young to old and the emotions were overflowing.

In Washington, where the baseball team “stole” our police escort and “cheating” the AF Captain from viewing his Air Force memorial, but visiting with sadness the WWII, Korean, Vietnam and Marine Memorials and realizing the sacrifices made by innumerable warriors and their families, essentially showing their love and gratitude for all we have received.

A highlight, of course, was the Changing of the Guard at Arlington Cemetery where over 400,000 are buried with an average of 28/weekdays and 8/Saturday still… The ceremony is breathtaking, filled with honor, respect and deep abiding love. One cannot walk away dry-eyed or not filled with extreme pride!

On the return flight, less than an hour from touchdown, Darryl handed me a HUGE envelope—it was OVERFLOWING with expressions of your appreciation for my service and also a lot of “fake impressions!” I could not complete reading all as my body had become dehydrated from the flood emerging from my eyes! I’d say, “Thank you,” but that doesn’t approach the emotions encompassing my heart. You have showered me with so much love and attention and I am overwhelmed!

Throughout the day I was embarrassed! As we walked from memorial to memorial and viewed those who never would hear the accolades for their contributions—to never see their loved ones again. So for me, to be thanked for doing what I was trained to do and loving every minute, I needed no thanks! This trip, if anything, was humbling and I felt for those before me. It was me who was honored to be allowed to serve and in a small way, contribute to the well-being of our military and our country. Two of the finest and most rewarding years of my life. And my eternal gratitude to my ancestors for allowing me to be born in the USA.

And to my guardian, Daryl Johnson, he could have been my father wheeling me in a stroller. He was TRULY my GUARDIAN!

G-D bless you, and G-D BLESS AMERICA!

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