Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Central Missouri Honor Flight # 32

April 20, 2015 ~ Who needs sleep? Not this girl... After an exciting night at the 50th Annual ACM Awards in Dallas, TX it was time to get to the airport so I could hop a plane and meet the Central Missouri Honor Flight in Washington, DC! Yep it's super early but there wasn't going to be anything in my way keeping me from traveling with our veterans on CMHF # 32!

Talk about perfect timing....
When I booked my flight from Dallas, Texas to Washington, DC I was worried how long it might take to get off the plane and get a taxi but I arrived at the World War II Memorial 10 minutes before the buses of our veterans arrived! I knew the rest of the day would be absolutely perfect!

The taxi driver dropped me off on this side of the World War II Memorial which was really cool because it's a side I had never seen before. Strange I know but usually we are more focused on the inside of the memorial rather than this side. I'm glad I had a few minutes to see it from this side.

I wanted to see what a panoramic picture would look like from this view... no matter how you look at this memorial it is beautiful! 
 After a quick walk to the other side a nice surprise would be waiting for our veterans....

Students from Virginia traveled to the World War II Memorial with name of our veterans on decorated poster board and lined the entrance of the memorial. The veterans were moved by this wonderfully kind gesture and something I don't think has been done before. Job well done students!

The best part of this... I came through at the end and there were a group of kids talking. One of the students said "That was so emotional" as the other students agreed and began chatting about this experience. If those students only know how emotional it was for the veterans and the those traveling with Central Missouri Honor Flight.... 

What a great group of American Heroes! 

The next stop would take them to the Korean War Memorial and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial...
With each passing flight that Central Missouri Honor Flight takes sadly they see less World War II veterans able to travel on these trips and they are starting to see a slight drop in Korean War veterans flying with us. With a decrease in these two conflicts they are able to take more Vietnam veterans on these flights which is always bittersweet. The Honor Flight was created because of the World War II veterans and I am so glad to see our Vietnam veterans have the opportunity to see their memorial as well. All conflicts deserve to go on a trip of a lifetime and I just wish there was a way to get them all on plane big enough to take all of our veterans to Washington, D.C. to see their memorials.
I have been helping with the Vietnam Veterans Memorial etchings and it's an honor to help our veterans flying on a Central Missouri Honor Flight find the names of their family, friends, and brothers names on the wall and take an etching or a rubbing of their name to take back home. 

Going to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial (aka: "The Wall") is very emotional for me and I can't even begin to imagine what it's like for these men and women. Many ask why we do the etchings and I can only say that it's a way to take a piece of memory home. These young men and women never got to come home and yet many of these men and women that travel on these honor flights never got to say goodbye. Going to this memorial is like finally saying goodbye and they are able to come to peace with the past. Etchings are something they treasure for years. 
This young man, a Vietnam veteran, was serving along side another young man who would draw characters on cardboard pieces. He wanted to find the guy who drew these as he was killed in action 4 days after these were drawn back in 1969. He kept the originals but wanted to give those drawings back to the man that created them.
(It's stories like this that really pull at your heart)
We had a heck of a time finding his name but with a little digging he was able to find his real name. While we aren't exactly sure why he signed like this we can only imagine it was his nickname or what his buddies called him. Often times this is pretty common to have nicknames that have nothing to do with their real names which make it difficult to find someone they served with.
(He signed the drawings as RAS or Stephens yet his real name was Stanley Rykaczewski)

With more Vietnam veterans going on the flights we have more names that they would like to find on "The Wall". We encourage the veterans to turn in any names prior to the trip so that we can do a little homework before we leave making it easier to locate the names on the walls. Many times names don't come to mind until they are at the memorial and we do what we can to help locate names. It's the least we can do for these veterans and it means a lot to them.

After a wonderful day with our veterans it was time to head home. As we get to our gate at the airport we look outside and see a beautiful rainbow. We can't help but think it's one of our guardians that was taken far too early from cancer just saying hello. Mike Miller... we miss you like crazy!

A huge thank you to everyone involved in the planning, setting up, and coordinating every single detail that goes into a Central Missouri Honor Flight. Without supporters, contributors, volunteers and our veterans none of this would be possible. It feels good to be apart of something that really means so much to so many people!

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