Random Thoughts

It's never too late

... final resting place for thousands of U.S. Military Veterans

from Bob Campbell

Many of us know about Arlington National Cemetery. We know that it's the final
resting place for thousands of U.S. Military veterans. Maybe some of us have been
there and seen it with our own eyes. However, when you're a WW II veteran who hasn't
seen the cemetery and you've reached the ripe old age of 87, with the outlook of
your getting to visit in the near future not very optimistic given leg problems
which require the use of a cane, it's no wonder my eyes took a second look at an
article that appeared in our local morning newspaper ... ”The Daily Press.” It was
titled: “6th Honor Flight for WW II Vets is Planned.” It mentioned that the number
of WWII veterans sadly dwindles every day. As a result, a Williamsburg, VA based
group is working that much harder to give these aging men and women a day in their
honor by staging its sixth trip to Arlington National Cemetery, WW II Memorial and
other historic sites in Washington D.C. on Saturday, October 22nd.  

I clipped the article and let a day go by. It was now June 10. Should I look into
this, or shouldn't I?  I was a WWII vet and I might in the not too distant future
be contributing to that dwindling number of WW II vets. So, why not take the trip I
asked myself? I've never really seen Arlington National Cemetery up close or any of
the other military sites that would be visited.

So, on June 12, three days after seeing the newspaper article, I decided to submit
an application which included listing: service history, medications and other
medical information.

One month later, on July 22 to be exact, I got an important phone call from Honor
Flight Historic Triangle Virginia, the local organization that sponsors the trip. I
had been O.K.'d to make the trip on October 22!  

But, what about that trip? What should I know? Who is Honor Flight Historic Triangle
Virginia (HFHTVA)? They have taken on a big responsibility! Here's what I learned
about them.

HFHTVA is a Williamsburg-based non-profit organization established in October 2008.
Their goal: to take every WWII and/or terminally ill veteran in the Hampton Roads
and Richmond areas who is able to take the trip and has not visited the World War
II Memorial built in their honor on a charter bus day-trip to Washington, D.C. In
addition, they plan to visit Arlington National Cemetery, the Marine Corps War (Iwo
Jima) Memorial and the Korean War and/or Vietnam War Memorials. To satisfy the need
for energy, box meals will be served for breakfast and lunch plus a sit-down dinner
at the National Museum of the Marine Corps before returning to Williamsburg. And,
most importantly, in consideration of the health of the veteran bus passengers, all
veterans will be accompanied by a trained volunteer “guardian” who will assist the
veteran for the entire trip. There will also be a staff of certified Emergency
Medical Technicians/Paramedics to ensure everyone's safety.  

For those who are not aware, the HFHTVA here in Williamsburg is only one of the hubs
of the National Honor Flight Network which was founded in 2004 and has almost 100
hubs* throughout the  United States. As a matter of fact, as of the end of 2010,
they will have taken 63,000 vets to the memorials in Washington,D.C. How did all of
this start?

The Honor Flight Network was conceived by Earl Morse, a physician assistant and
Retired  Air Force Captain. His idea was born in May 2004, when the World War II
Memorial in Washington was completed. Wouldn't it be great if his WWII veteran
patients could visit and see this great monument that was built in their honor?  But
he soon found out that it wasn't financially or physically possible for them to make
the journey. Most of these senior veterans were in their 80's and lacked the
physical and mental capacity to make the trip on their own. So, in January 2005 Earl
Morse, located in Springfield, Ohio, decided to present an idea to his aero club.  
Eleven pilots in the club stood up and volunteered. Thus, Honor Flight was born!   
The word spread quickly across America. Jeff Miller of Hendersonville, North
Carolina led the expansion. This was the beginning of Henderson County's Honor Air
... beginning that resulted in a U.S. Airways chartered jet to be filled with WW II
veterans and their guardians. Hendersonville, NC and Henderson County, NC by 2007
was the first city and county in the United States to fly 100% of its WW II veterans
to their memorial!  

May those veterans who make the trip enjoy every minute of it and especially
remember those thousands of brilliant white cemetery markers rising from a rolling,
spring-green landscape and the orderly sea of headstones that represent the men and
women who served our country in time of critical need. And may they remember the
breath-taking view of all of this and what it represents in the history of our great

September 2, 2011

*  the hub for Massachusetts is in Canton

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