Honor Flight - Coronado Eagle & Journal | Coronado News | Coronado Island News: Opinion

Honor Flight

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Posted: Friday, October 18, 2019 5:00 pm

For those of you who witnessed the return of the Honor Flight from Washington. D.C. and Baltimore last Sunday afternoon, Oct. 6, you witnessed an event that has changed the lives of 60 surviving San Diego World War II and Korean veterans. I mean that quite literally; it was life changing. I know because I was one of them.

Somewhere, between 65 and 70 years ago, these folks all served in the armed forces of the United States during World War II and Korea. There were about 19 million of them, and today only about 500,000 (around 3%) survive. They are disappearing with increasing rapidity, so the Honor Flight is quite meaningful.

I was at this singular event, and it was almost mystical to see these diverse old men and women (we had two former military nurses) slowly change from arthritic, crippled and depressed old people to smiling talkative “youngsters” again. For the first time in years many were back in a known military environment again, swapping tales and laughs with other vets who had shared their own experiences.

Not one of us will forget the almost bewildering and completely unexpected cheers and waves we received on our arrival when walking through the entire Baltimore airport. My assigned roommate (a former destroyer man who had escorted convoys in the icy, turbulent and U-Boat infested North Atlantic) was just shaking his head. In our room his comment was simple and typical: “I didn’t know what to do!” Nor did I! Nor did any of us!

You can imagine the dilemma. Last week many of us were sitting home, bored and with nobody paying attention to us and now this enormous Baltimore welcome.

And we were treated well! Every vet had a full-time guardian who followed them, helped them, laughed with them, wheeled them (often necessary) and protected them.

On day two, we filed into three special busses that took us from Baltimore, our arrival point, to Washington, DC. Then we toured that historical city with hand-picked knowledgeable guides as we moved from memorial to memorial. The convoy was constantly being led by a police and/or motorcycle escort. All traffic lights on the streets were stopped to let us pass, and from the sidewalks and from the stopped cars the yells, the waves and the applause was almost constant. Wow! Hard to believe!

And speaking of applause and accolades, Baltimore was only our introduction. That welcome was dwarfed fives time over by the cheering crowds, the flags and signs, the patriotic music and the lined up and saluting young Marines, Navy and other military people that awaited them back in San Diego.

Anyone could look at these old vets and see the renewed twinkle in their eyes, the fresh spring in their steps and even the most crippled [of us] stood an inch taller. It clearly showed what one generous weekend can do!

The military has an unmistaken way of instilling values and memories and, above all, a sense of patriotism that is rarely found elsewhere, especially today. We all remember the lump in our throats when we saw the American flag on some distant battlefield and knew that it was there to protect and lead us into combat. I was in North Africa when it happened to me!

Finally, the most poignant testament came from the family of one aged vet who marveled that “since his return he has begun talking again and his old interests have returned.” Without question, “Kilroy” was looking down on this historic gang again just as he had years ago in every theater of the war.

Thank you, Honor Flight!

Honor Flight donations: Visit the Honor Flight donations: Honor Flight donations: Visit the Honorflightsandiego.org page to donate on line or donations can be mailed in to Honor Flight San Diego, 9423 Keck Court, San Diego, CA 92129.

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