They saved the nation
When I was 10 years old, my grandparents planned to take me to Washington, D.C., for a week to see our nation’s capitol. The night before we were to leave, my great-grandmother fell and broke her hip and the trip was canceled. I’ve wanted to go to Washington, D.C., ever since.
When I learned about the Honor Flight, I knew it was a trip I wanted to make. I’ve interviewed many World War II veterans and I have deep respect for what they gave and gave up to fight that war. Fortunately, I did go along with the World War II veterans and many Korean War veterans, too. It’s a day I will never forget.
I’ve never talked to a veteran of either war who have thought what they did during wartime was special or unique. All of them have been humble about their service to our country. One of my veteran friends always said that the best of them were buried on foreign soil.
I’m a secondhand witness to the sacrifices they made. My male relatives were too young or too old to serve in World War II and my dad’s selective service classification was 4F. He was married and had a child (me) at the time of the Korean War. Most of my knowledge about the wars I’ve learned through books, movies and mini series. I’ve augmented that knowledge by talking to some of the Americans here in Washington County and Louisa County and writing about them.
I’ve not been able to write some things I was told because many veterans asked me not to repeat some of the details. I can no longer betray one of them who told met just two years ago he often felt like he shouldn’t be allowed to sit in church because he knew how many enemy soldiers he had killed. That comment just blows me away every time I think of it.
I have since learned that some veterans still experience flashbacks and nightmares after all these years. I recently learned about a World War II paratrooper who would stand on his bed ready to jump out of the airplane until the end of his lifetime. It was also a time when men were the strong-silent type and bore their war experiences alone.
What really became clear to me after the Honor Flight was that the veterans I know as acquaintances, neighbors and friends truly are the Americans who saved our nation and the world. Too often I’ve taken these veterans for granted because everyday encounters made them every day people to me.
Standing in awe at the World War II Memorial on the National Mall has deepened my gratitude for the nation and world we have today. In spite of the political climate in our country today, I am reminded that our veterans fought for and sacrificed much for the freedom we enjoy today. They have also and still are fighting for the freedom of others in the world.
When we arrived in Washington, D.C., it was raining. The rain changed the schedule some and it stormed during the afternoon. The rain was nothing compared to what the veterans went through. The war went on in all kinds of weather, often causing more hardship than the battles alone.
I owe so many so much. We all owe so many so much.