This post is part two of my Saturday as an Honor Flight guardian. To see the first part, head over here... Then read on below!
During the bus ride down into the city, I sat next to a man who was 80. He had been married to his wife for 65 years! I was so impressed with that. He told me that he almost had cancelled his trip because his wife had reached for his hand in bed earlier that week and they held hands for a while, he said, just stroking each others' fingers, and the next morning, his daughter came to check in on them to find his wife had lapsed into a coma. In spite of that, he had come at his daughter's insistence and showed me a picture of Morgan's Surrender Sword (from the Civil War,) that he said he had dug up out of his yard. He told me other things as well, but he was a little difficult to hear at times because of the bus's engine being so loud.
We left off at the wonderful D.C. traffic jam in part one. I must say that those Honor Flight folks are right on the ball - once we broke through the main traffic jam, which was unavoidable, really, they managed to get National Park Police (Thanks, guys!) to come out and give us a police escort into the closed-off streets of D.C. so we could park right there next to the WWII Monument.
That part was fantastic and mighty helpful! Our "bus" (five replacement vans) alone held twelve wheelchair veterans that needed to be unloaded, gotten into their chairs, taken for latrine/head/bathroom calls and then to visit their monument. The crowds were unbelievable! We did get everyone unloaded (can I just say that I really was taken by how soft their hands were - like a newborn babies' hands) and headed for the bathrooms that were built alongside the WWII Monument. For once, I was glad to be on the girls' side! Normally the line out the door comes from the women's room, Saturday there were around 40 male veterans waiting for the men's facilities! We finally decided to speed things up a bit and did as the ladies do when the situation is reversed: we commandeered the women's room and siphoned some of the men that way. Trust me when I say that some of these guys looked about as uncomfortable as a pregnant woman waiting to go!
We did get some dirty looks from a few protesters who wanted into the ladies' room and whom we asked to wait. Meanwhile, to the side of the permanent restroom fixture, there were at least 30 port-a-potties that had been set up specifically for the protestors to use. I finally emerged from guarding the bathroom door until all of our men came out and it warmed my heart to hear three medics nearby (on hand in case of anyone getting hurt in the protests from heat exhaustion or whatever) ... discussing ... the protestors who had complained about our use of the ladies' room for the vets. Their take on it was that the port-a-potties were set up specifically for the protestors and that the vets who had fought in the war should have had every use of the restrooms that went with their monument. Made me smile.
My group had one Columbus guardian, myself, and three vets - one in a wheelchair, two walkers. When I got out of the restroom duty, they had disappeared. Crap. So I headed for the Monument itself to try to find them. What a mess! I will not ruin my commentary any more than needed talking about the behaviour of many of the protestors toward our veterans. That will be for a follow-on post that I have plans for. But suffice to say that finding my little group of four was going to be nearly impossible. So I grabbed a vet who had lost his group and we walked around the pool and he told me stories about the war, his wife and his garden back home. He was lovely to be with.
As we rounded off the circuit, we found his Columbus Guardian and he went back to his group. I remained behind, both looking for my group and helping "make a hole" (path) for the vets to move through the waves of protestors moving by. The man who started Honor Flight was on hand to help out and welcome the vets as well and they did have several tourists who stopped our men to ask for their pictures and shake hands. The men took group photos in front of the wall of stars, they shared their stories and laughed as they remembered the past. Some of the men even made mock passes at the ladies - they were mighty sweet. Mine gave me a kiss on my cheek and told me I was pretty. Flatterer.
More in part 3 - this part seems long enough for now! ....