I had the honor of being a guardian for 3 wonderful Vietnam Veterans. I can't tell you how proud it makes me to be able to be among men and women that have fought for our country and give back to them by treating them like VIP's during this fast-paced 24 hour trip.
These guys were a hoot!
They had no clue that after this trip we would practically be like family!
(Once my heart gets attached it's hard to let go)
Up until this point we were all trying to wake up and prepare for what we would experience. It was happy, sad, exciting and yet nervous but I think you could tell from the looks on their face that they were ready to see their memorials! Next stop... Baltimore, Maryland!
The guys at the World War II Memorial
At the Vietnam Veterans Memorial it's always interesting to see what has been left behind by others. We have seen letters from school children, flowers, shell casings, pictures and flags. This trip was special because tomorrow is Tuesday, November 11th otherwise known as Veterans Day.
(This was the only picture that was taken of one of my veterans at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial with photo credit going to Art Smith Photography)
One of the things I had the honor of doing while at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial is to taking etchings. (A special thanks to Bill Jones for purchasing and providing a Vietnam Veterans Memorial Directory of Names book for the Central Missouri Honor Flight so that it makes it so much easier to look up names on the wall for our veterans.) I have had several people ask me about these etchings including what they are and why do I do them. The answer is pretty simple....
When a Vietnam Veteran goes to "The Wall" there are so many thoughts running through their head and it's a very emotional experience. If I can make this a little easier by allowing them to go to this memorial to reflect and process their thoughts without thinking about the etchings then it allows Central Missouri Honor Flight to give back to them by presenting them with a piece of their past to take home. Of course I do encourage them to do their own etching as I feel this is a way to connect with their brother and/or sister that never came home. I know this particular part of our trip is one they don't necessarily look forward to because of the emotional ties but once they leave this memorial they are glad they came. You almost see a sense of calmness come over them which makes my heart happy. After all they also signed a blank check to our United States for up to and including their own life.
Once I got done with the etchings I took a cab over to Arlington National Cemetery to meet back up with everyone. They were witnessing the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider so I decided to check out the visitors center.
I loved reading about all the things they had in there and it's filled with so much history.
If I come back to Washington, D.C. on a non-honor flight I would love to spend a lot of time here.
Our Marines at the Marine Corps Memorial Iwo Jima
Happy 239th Birthday Marine!
Air Force Memorial
As we were sitting at the airport getting ready to fly home VA Secretary Robert A. McDonald with the Department of Veteran's Affairs coined each of the Central Missouri Honor Flight Veterans! This is a really cool thing to see and really awesome that he took time to come to the airport to genuinely interact and listen to each of the veterans really meant a lot to everyone.
If you have a moment I encourage you to watch a wonderful video that was created during the Central Missouri Honor Flight's visit to Washington, D.C. by clicking on this link. This video was created by the VA Digital News and Secretary Robert McDonald..... Thank you!
This picture pretty much sums up our trip! It was incredible, fast-paced and we covered a lot of ground but we made it! We all may be a little tired but we are all really happy! It is so emotional to watch these guys come off the buses and reunite with their families and you see that they hug a little tighter, kiss a little longer and they have a glimmer in their eyes that is just a little brighter. Truly amazing trip and I know I will be in touch with these guys soon but until then....
Happy Veterans Day!