Monday, November 9, 2015

Central Missouri Honor Flight # 36

November 3, 2015 ~ Today we would embark on Central Missouri Honor Flight # 36 and the final flight for 2015. While the next 24 hours would be full of emotions, fast-paced and memorable it's also a little sad that we would have to wait until next Spring before the next flight.

We arrived at the Courtyard by Marriott around 11:00 PM to a room full of warm and friendly smiles from CMHF volunteers nicknamed "The Red Shirts" and several cracked smiles, a few jokes and introductions of family members from many of the veterans traveling on flight #36. I have to say thank you to the many volunteers (both working behind the scenes and those that you see on pre-flight, flight day and welcome home gatherings) that put in so many hours to make sure that everything is perfect for these veterans. This isn't a paid position and many take off work to be here for these special days. You do not go un-noticed and you are very much appreciated for all you do! 

I try my best to talk to each veteran (and guardian) going on a flight as it helps prepare them for dealing with me! Ha! Just kidding.... I really like to laugh and joke around and show them that we are here for them and making this day extra special. It is a true honor to be able to travel with them and while it is packed with many mixed emotions I try (just like the other guardians) to smile and interact genuinely with them. The CMHF family is a very special group. We would do anything for one another and through out this day we all help one another with various things.

I will say that the only part of this trip that still bothers me today is the lack of respect for others that the general public that was flying on our flight from St. Louis to Baltimore gave. Many of these passengers were very vocal in expressing they were not happy that they would have to wait while 110 people with "an honor flight" would be boarding the plane first. It was appalling to say the least. Luckily our veterans didn't know anything about this (or at least the majority of them didn't) as the guardians just jumped up and began talking to the veterans so that it would drown out this rude and disrespectful behavior. Out of the 12 flights I have had the privilege of being on I have never experienced this and frankly I hope I never do again. Obviously they didn't understand who they were flying with on this November 3rd morning or they would have been a little more understanding. While they will still get to their destination and they will still receive their beverage service I would gladly sit in the back of a plane and give my seat up to a veteran (or even active duty service man or woman) and certainly wouldn't have made an as* out of myself. To CMHF's defense when we travel on an airplane our veterans are the first ones on the plane with the general public loading last but once we arrive in Baltimore we stay in our seats and the general public are the first ones off the plane as we know we are slower getting off the plane and don't want someone to miss their next flight/ride. 

Luckily when we arrived in Baltimore our veterans received a first of many "welcomes" by the Baltimore Fire Department! I love seeing the water cannon salutes and capturing the little rainbows they give as the water and sun mix! It was going to be a perfect day from this point forward! 

Once we arrived at the World War II Memorial I had a quick second to grab a picture of a wonderful guy and photographer, Stephen R. Brown before running over to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial! If you don't know Stephen then you are missing out! I have ordered his books and you will not be disappointed!

Stephen R. Brown has been a professional photographer and writer for forty years. His images and articles on photography have appeared in Smithsonian, Life, Newsweek, Time, Fortune, the New York Times, National Geographic Books, Broadcasting & Cable, American Photo, Photo Techniques, etc. His work been exhibited in solo shows here and abroad and in "Indelible Images: 100 Years of War Photography" and "Odyssey: 100 Years of NGS Photography." He works with Honor Flight and other veterans' organizations to provide books at low cost to WWII Veterans. He has a few books: WWII Memorial: Jewel of the Mall, DC PHOTO BOOK and TIDEWATER: The Chesapeake Bay in Photographs. He is always capturing pictures of the various Honor Flights visiting Washington, DC and working on additional books!Please take a moment to "like" his Facebook page and write him a note telling him thank you for all he is doing for our veterans.... and that a crazy blonde named Michele Spry sent ya! Ha! 
His website:
His Facebook Page:
His Business Facebook Page:

When I arrived to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial it's always bittersweet. Coming from a non-military family it's just something we never really talked about but something I want to learn more about as I get older. I absolutely love the memorials in Washington, DC however the Vietnam Veterans Memorial is something I am a little more partial to. We have a team of people that do various things on an honor flight and one thing we do for our veterans is to locate names of fallen on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. (The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is the only memorial that have names of those who died during or a result of combat) While we "rub" the names for our veterans I always take a moment or two to say the name, run my fingers over the name and hope this trip brings some healing to our veterans. This memorial is very emotional even for those who don't know anyone listed on this memorial. Today it was different. When you enter the West end of the memorial there was a few tour groups roaming around. The very first thing I noticed was there wasn't anything left by others. Normally when you walk around the memorial you see cards, letters, flags, flowers, shell casings, drawings, artwork, etc. yet today there wasn't even a flag. The flag you see in the picture above was left by one of our veterans. (I always love reading/seeing things left behind by others) I am so glad the nearly 50 Vietnam Veterans were able to visit this memorial today. 

While pictures don't really do this justice I can't even really describe the beautiful colors of Fall that were all around us! Truly my favorite time of year to visit Washington, DC! 
This would be my very first time visiting the Women's In Military Service For America Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery. We stop at this spot to use the bathrooms and I guess I have never had to go until today.... What a beautiful reminder of the women who served and/or currently serving our country! If you ever visiting Washington, D.C.  and specifically Arlington National Cemetery you need to take time to stop by this place! 
There were so many great things to see that I was reading and not taking pictures! I did grab a couple pictures and I'll do my best to try and grab a few more on another trip one day! 
There are certainly some very interesting articles/stories in this Memorial!

One of the things that caught my eye is a beautiful quilt hanging up! 
(If you don't know me then you don't understand my love for old barns, windmills and quilts!) 
This is a quilt from the Pentagon Collection and it was so much more than material and thread. It was about the remembrance of lives that were lost on September 11, 2001.
Watching the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns is something I love to watch. These young men are almost like robots moving in unison together so smooth and absolutely perfect every single time. After watching the Changing of the Guard it's time to get the veterans together for a group photo. What an amazing group of men and women traveling to Washington, D.C. today! 

I have said it before but I would love to spend some time in Arlington National Cemetery. There is so much history here and to spend some time to reflect and pay respect to those men and women that have fought for our freedoms many years ago and current who have lost their lives. While the Central Missouri Honor Flight we get a small tour as the buses take us to the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns but just a small glimpse of this massive cemetery. 

Next stop would be the United States Air Force Memorial! 
This memorial is so large it's hard to capture in a photo! We spend a little more time here as we have dinner together at this memorial! I like to hurry up and eat so I can visit with the veterans as I want to know how their trip is going so far. While we are almost done with Washington, D.C. the trip certainly isn't over yet! 

Once on the plane my favorite thing to do is to look back.... seeing all of these veteran hats from various conflicts, branches of service or special made hats for this trip makes me smile. Central Missouri Honor Flight staff, guardians, volunteers and supporters have done everything they know how to do to make this a trip of a lifetime! 

Occasionally we will have family members and/or members of organizations meet the veterans at the St. Louis airport. I love seeing the support from so many people while giving these wonderful veterans a welcome home they deserve! 

This entire day is something none of us will ever forget. No matter if it's our first trip or our 36th trip there is something special about each flight. Thank you to each and every single veteran, guardian, volunteer, physicians, staff, motorcycle riders, Columbia Police Department, Highway Patrol, Boone County Sheriff's Department, Columbia Fire Department, Courtyard by Marriott, supporters, family and friends.... you certainly know how to SHOW-ME (OK.... really it's show our veterans) the love in Missouri!
Do you know a World War II, Korean or Vietnam Veteran that would like to go on an Honor Flight? If they are from around the Mid-Missouri area then please visit the above website to print out a Veteran Application to get turned in... they don't know about your veteran unless you tell them!
Not from around the Mid-Missouri area? Please visit the above website to find a hub near you!

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