Dear Fellow American,
I have to write to you and share the wonderful experience I was privileged to share with 29 other vets recently. It was truly humbling and emotional. I have no idea how I was chosen, but I received a call from a lady telling me that I had been recommended to go on this flight to the WW 2 memorial in Washington. At first, I declined because I didn’t feel worthy to be included since I served after the war was over. But she asked me some questions and when she learned that I actually enlisted in Feb. ’45 when I was 17 and did not get called to duty until August, that I was entitled to the honor. She was insistent and since (it’s a good thing I am not a girl, I can’t say no) I agreed.
Well it was something I will never forget and want to share with you. I had to be at the meeting place in Catskill at 6:00 so it meant getting up at 4:00 AM. From the moment I arrived there, I was treated like a king. We got on a bus to take us to the airport. There were 10 guys on motorcycles and 2 police cars escorting us. Even though it was very early, as we passed through different towns there were people there waving flags and cheering us. The same thing happened at the airport. They had organized a reception there. People kept shaking our hands and thanking us for our service. When we boarded the plane we were permitted to get on before everyone else. Even the pilot welcomed us aboard on the intercom. Of course we were served coffee and cake and bagels etc. When we arrived at the airport, there were 2 fire engines that spouted water and escorted the plane to the gate. When we disembarked again there was a crowd of people waving flags and clapping. It was really humbling and emotional. I couldn’t help being teary. We got on a bus and again we were fed roast beef sandwiches and drinks.
They even played songs from our era.. Tommy Dorsey, Sinatra etc on the bus.
We arrived at the memorial which again is very impressive. They assigned guardians (younger volunteers) to every 3 of us who were constantly with us giving us bottle water and making sure our every need was granted. We went to the Tomb of the Unknown soldier and were again privileged to watch the changing of the guard. How about this? The soldiers who patrolled the tomb, dragged a foot in a special way to honor us. If you have never seen the tomb it is very impressive. There is a respectful silence and a kind of special aura there. After that we were taken on a tour of Washington seeing all the monuments and special places.
Finally we took the bus back to the airport and the same greeting there. We had dinner at the airport and then took the flight back to Albany. By this time if was 10:00 PM and I was a little tired. But I got a big boost when they announced mail call and to my surprise there were letters from my children along with several others.
Of course there were more tears of joy and appreciation then.
One of the good things about it was to see my companions, some of them in their 90’s enjoy the acknowledgement they deserve. Some of them are true heroes.
So, it is something I want to share with you. It gives me hope for our country. Sometimes, I tend to become cynical with all the bad news… but it helped me to realize that there are still many, many true Americans and there is certainly reason to be optimistic about our future. We are called the “Greatest Generation”. I believe every American generation is the greatest generation. That’s what makes this country special.
Thanks for sharing it with me.