I had the honor to spend the day with Korean War Veteran, and new friend Garrison Arthur Phillips, along with 68 other World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam Veterans on the Honor Flight South Florida on April 14.
I wanted to be a Guardian on The Honor Flight as a way to honor my parent’s memory and both of their service—they met while serving, and were both in the Navy during the Korean War.
We flew early Saturday morning on a chartered flight from Fort Lauderdale to Delaware, and were bused to Washington, D.C., with a police escort all day! (The only police escorts in Washington D.C. are the President of the United States and Honor Flights.)
When we arrived, we found out it was ‘Super Saturday’ in the Honor Flight world. There are a total of 130 Honor Flight groups in the United States and 29 of them were in Washington D.C. that day.
We first attended the changing of the guard at Arlington National Cemetery.
The guards do a special scuff of their boots when walking by the veterans as a sign of respect and salute to them. We then were on our way to the National World War II Memorial, The Korean War Memorial, and The Marine Corps Memorial (Iwo Jima). Upon arriving to the Memorials, there were many people to greet us and thank all the veterans for their service, including junior cadets, ROTC, and active service men and women.
We then headed back to the airport to return to Fort Lauderdale. Upon departure and arrival to each airport, we had a water cannon salute from the fire departments. I had only seen this happen on TV, and I have to tell you, it was pretty amazing to go through them.
Once on the plane home, Honor Flight South Florida surprised the veterans with “Mail Call”.
They had contacted the friends and family members of the veterans to write letters. It was reminiscent of when they were stationed away from home and getting mail was sometimes the highlight of their day. There were letters from family, friends, children in schools, congressmen, and many others. The plane became very quiet while they were reading their letters and you could feel the emotion fill the plane.
Upon arrival back to Fort Lauderdale Airport, Honor Flight had another surprise in store for the veterans.
They put out a notice via social media the date and time of the flight’s arrival, and invited all to join in welcoming the veterans back to the airport. They call it The Homecoming Celebration. I knew there were going to be a lot of people there, but I had no idea of the amount—there were close to 1,000 people at the terminal (including my family). It was quite the celebration! I managed to keep it together throughout the day until I heard the bag-pipers—and then that was it…instant tears.
I have to tell you, it was a life changing day that will stay with me forever.
I heard so many amazing stories from these veterans and met the most good-hearted people. To see the faces and to witness the emotion of the veterans throughout the day was heartwarming and very emotional. I feel honored and proud to have spent the day with all of them. It was a very patriotic day and I thank all veterans and active duty service men and women for protecting our freedom and the United States.
Thank you for sharing your story with us Kelly.
For more information about Honor Flight South Florida, please visit their web site.