Monday, October 4, 2010

A Matter of Honor... Part One

This last Saturday, I had the opportunity to help out in a program called Honor Flight. Regardless of where you are, I imagine there are ways to help, so it would be great of you to click the link above and check them out. This post is about my day with a wonderful group of World War II veterans coming to Washington, D.C., for a one-day trip from Columbus, Ohio.

I am going to start by saying that part of the reason I volunteered to do Honor Flight today was because I needed a good way to spend a Saturday and get away from some serious problems that I've been involved with in our church. The problems are out of my control, but no less worrisome and sad. This day was one of the best cures I could ever have experienced. I loved every minute of it and will definitely go help again - without waiting for a day when I need a distraction!

The day started out early, well, for a Saturday, anyway. I was supposed to be at the airport to "mingle" with the other "Guardians" who had worked with Honor Flight before, get questions answered, and get our passes to go past security to the gate. All of the people who were there to help the vets were called "Guardians.") I arrived a little early so that I could go to Subway and get a sandwich for my lunch. I could have paid $6 for a boxed lunch from Arby's, but that doesn't work so well for a vegetarian! As I stood there waiting in the Subway line, I was acutely aware of the time ticking by, making me late. One guy was texting, one guy was standing at the register, neither said a word to me! Finally, the guy texting stopped, and began to scrub vigorously on a cooker of some sort. I was pretty glad a few minutes later when the guy at the register was the one to come make my sandwich! (That's a side-rant. I add it in now to illustrate my hectic morning - there was so much more to the morning, but too detailed to put on one blog post!)

Once I joined up with the Honor Flight group, they checked off my name and gave me a pass to get past security. Honor Flight has been operating for about five years now and so have a pretty good working relationship with BWI by now. It made things much easier! They had already made arrangements for us to bypass the loooooong security lines and go through the section for employees and flight personnel. We still had to remove our shoes, etc., but it was still much faster that way.

Once we reached the gate (A-2 in our case,) we lined up with the uniformed military personnel who had come out from Ft. Meade positioned closest to the door where the vets would emerge from the plane. As they exited the plane, each one was cheered and applauded, hands were shaken all down the line and pictures were snapped. One vet in an old Navy hat, with a black ring around the top rim (a special designator, no longer in use, as I understand it,) wanted to have a picture with all of the Navy guys there.

Once we had all the men - and a few ladies! - off of the plane, with their escorts from Columbus, we headed out of the secure area to wait for our three buses, which would take us to Washington, D.C. There were protests going on in DC Saturday - an "Anti-Tea Party" rally and a gay pride parade, I believe, so I wondered how we were going to get these old boys close enough to the monuments that they would be able to walk the distance. I needn't have worried!

One bus broke down (the one for yours truly, of course!) so after some wrangling, we herded our guys with their Columbus Guardians onto five transport vans and headed off down I-295. We were going along at a pretty quick pace until we hit construction and Rally traffic just past I-495, which runs around the perimeter of Washington, D.C. Then we bogged down for about 20 or 25 minutes.

To keep these posts from getting overwhelmingly long (I know I tend to be wordy!) I'll break this into a couple of sections. I so enjoyed the day that I want to get in as much detail as I can - with hopes of encouraging others to join us next time!

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