Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Watching World War II vets welcomed to the nation's capital at Reagan National Airport
I was flying back to Madison from Reagan National Airport over the weekend and hoped to make a cell phone call while waiting for my flight. But the noise was too great. There was a brass band a couple of gates away, a big crowd of cheering people, and as I saw when I got closer, they were waving American flags. Still a little irritated by the noise and disruption, I asked what all the fuss was about. The crowd was welcoming a group of World War II veterans flown to DC by Honor Flight Network, an organization that flies WWII veterans to the nation's capital who would not otherwise be able to visit the WWII memorial. Just then, the veterans started coming out, and all my irritation fled.
It was an incredible scene. There were about a hundred vets on this flight, mostly older white guys, two women and a couple of black guys. All were at least in their eighties, and a few were older. They seemed representative of any group of people that age. Some were disabled, some were in wheelchairs, but most walked proudly on their own. One danced a little impromptu jig. People waved their flags and reached out to thank them for their service. On their faces were a wide range of expressions, many of them playing out on the face of this old paratrooper (view Large), a member of the famous One Hundred and First Airborne.
Many had a faraway look in their eyes, as if looking back at memories of events that took place years before most in the welcoming crowd were even born, terrible events which they were lucky to survive, but in which they lost friends and which marked them for life. I'm not sure any war can really considered a "good war," but these veterans served in the last one that even came close. They deserve all the honors we can bestow on them.