Triangle Flight Of Honor
On Tuesday, April 19th, I had the privilege and honor of flying with 100 World War II veterans to Washington, DC to see the majestic memorial created just for them to honor their service and sacrifice.
It would be an exhausting, emotional, and just exhilarating day.
It would also be a very long day.
Flight preparations began around 6AM. We would return to Raleigh Durham International Airport around 8pm.
As I have stated before, my next music project will be an album to honor America’s servicewomen and men.
When I am in the company of these heroes, I am reminded that someone paid a dear price for the way of life I enjoy. I do not ever want to take this privilege for granted. The least I can do is say, Thank You!’
Veterans have a special place in my heart. I was raised in a military family. My father was a soldier in the U.S Army. I was born at Fort Benning, Georgia.
All of this speaks to my motivation about this new CD project.
My patriotic juices are boiling over!
But back to the Flight of Honor.
The flight I was on was the 4th flight from the Triangle.
I knew going in, that this would be a challenge for me emotionally.. feeling as strongly as I do about the service and sacrifice our veterans give.
Still, I was not emotionally prepared for the sight I would see as soon as I emerged from the parking garage at RDU.
I had seen the video and heard the interviews from these aging veterans. It was nothing like being there and seeing it all firsthand!
Cars dropping off the veterans were lined up outside the terminal. Marines and others in uniform would approach the vehicles, open the doors, then salute the veterans and assist them into the terminal to check in. Lining the entrance at full attention were other veterans from previous conflicts, and so many American flags.
It was too much for me, and I began to weep. I grabbed a scarf from my purse to d my eyes. Useless gesture. I couldn’t stop crying.
I composed myself in time for a live talk-back our morning news anchors (Bill and Renee) and then I walked inside to join the veterans waiting for the charter flight to Washington.
My flight contained more veterans who needed wheelchairs and also more women.
The men and women who are the real muscle behind the Triangle Flight of Honor are in a word amazing. It takes a good deal of work behind the scenes to make this mission run so smoothly. Hiccups are few and far between. They sweat the small stuff. Nothing is left to chance. So, before I got on, a big tip of the hat to these fine folks who “manage” the local Flight of Honor.
When we reached the World War II memorial, we all needed a moment to take it all in– this jewel of the mall.
I would interview three of the women about the flight of honor, and make them the focus of my report in the six o’clock newscast. Two of them were nurses. They were on the verge of tears telling me about how they attended the dead and dying during some of the major battles. One veteran talked about the Battle of the Bulge, and how ill suited the soldiers were for the brutal weather conditions. She talked about the major loss of lives. I reminded her about all the lives she saved.
The memorial is impressive.. completed in 2004 to honor the 16 million service men and women who served in the U.S. armed forces, including more than 400,000 who died, and the multitude who supported the war effort from home.
It has quickly become the most popular Memorial in Washington. It is airy, open, refreshing and easy on the eyes.
The vets toured the memorial under cloudy skies.. which gave way to heavy showers while we were there. I guessed we’d been there 30 to 40 minutes or so before the vets had to return to the buses.
It was enough time for them to reflect on their service to this country and receive the thank you they so richly deserve.
Some of them told them they never thought they’d live to see the Memorial. Others spoke of their appreciation of such an honor.
The men and women would see other war memorials before returning to the Triangle. It was a long and emotional day for everyone.
During the flight home, I was invited to sing to the veterans during an emotionally charged mail call. The veterans received letters of thanks and love from their family, friends, and school students.
I walked to the front of the plane and sang “Ill be seeing You” over the PA system.
This song was much loved during WW II. In fact, it became an anthem for those serving overseas.
Some of the veterans sang along with me.
It was again a trip I will long remember. I was surrounded by giants who defended our freedom. Heroes who assume such an unassuming stance despite all they gave to our country.
My life is richer from being in their company for that one day.
When you think about these veterans and all they did for this country.. it makes perfect sense that they would be written and talked about as the “Greatest Generation”.
Onward + Upward
Hey, if you’d like to read more about the Triangle Flight of Honor, just click the link I’ve included in this post: