Family lured Jerrianne and her husband to South Milwaukee in 2002 from Southern California where she worked as, first, a journalist, then, as a court information officer. She now stays busy with media-relations consulting, playing with her three grandchildren (part of the lure), writing, discovering her new environs, and hoping her garden will produce before the first fall frost.
Saturday night, my daughter took her children to Mitchell Field to greet some important travelers. They were not meeting family or friends. In fact, they had never met any of the people they were going to greet. May 14th marked the second time this year, and the tenth time since the inaugural flight in 2008, that the Stars and Stripes Honor Flight program took a group of World War II veterans to Washington DC for a day of honor and remembrance, visiting the WWII Memorial, Arlington National Cemetery, and other memorial sites. Each veteran is paired with a “guardian” to shepherd them through a day that begins with an early morning departure from Mitchell Field and a full schedule of events in DC before a late evening return to Milwaukee.
Though my daughter had seen and read reports of previous Stars and Stripes Honor Flights, it wasn’t until a member of her church recounted his experiences participating in the April 16th flight earlier this year that the importance of this program registered with her. He described a day that was full of poignancy, meaning and memories, but he was particularly moved by the greeting he got when he returned to Milwaukee. A cheering crowd lined the walkway from the concourse to the parking garage to greet and thank him and the other participating veterans for their service. My daughter said, “It’s not often you see a WWII veteran choke up. I was moved by how much that welcome home meant to him.” She came home from church that day promising herself she’d be part of the group welcoming home the next Stars and Stripes Honor Flight participants.
She and her kids got a chance to make good on that promise Saturday night, and the experience did not disappoint. She and her kids joined the grateful crowd lining the path from the concourse to the parking structure, glad for the opportunity to say, “Thank you for your service. Thank you for your sacrifice.” The beaming faces of the veterans and the misty eyes of the family members accompanying them at the sight of the cheering crowd were unforgettable. It is an experience she highly recommends.
There are Honor Flight regional hubs across the United States (http://www.honorflight.org/programs/allregionalhubs.cfm, five in Wisconsin http://www.honorflight.org/programs/index.cfm?s=WI#map) and tours from various hubs scheduled throughout the year (http://www.honorflight.org/tour/index.cfm). The Stars and Stripes Honor Flight program plans to have additional flights in the fall. Check their Web site for updates (http://www.starsandstripeshonorflight.org/) as the dates are finalized. Itineraries are posted the week before flight dates and include the time of return to Mitchell Field.
If you know a WWII veteran who would like to participate in an Honor Flight or you would like to donate to support the program (The program is run by volunteers. Donations cover the trips of veterans. Guardians and family members pay their own way.), please contact Stars and Stripes Honor Flight at http://www.starsandstripeshonorflight.org/donate.php.
Perhaps you can participate in supporting the Honor Flight mission:
“Our mission is to fly WWII veterans and terminally ill veterans from other wars to see their memorials in Washington, DC. We also work closely with schools throughout Wisconsin to ensure that the heroic stories of our veterans are built into the curriculum so that future generations will fully appreciate the sacrifices made on their behalf.
As the last of the Greatest Generation approach their final curtain call, we are witnesses to a tremendous loss as we embrace a precious opportunity. They will die – 900 heroes – men and women who defined dignity, pass from us each and every day. They take their stories and history and enormous bravery with them. But many are among us still. There is no earthly way we can approach a gift that reflects our depth of gratitude. But we thank them anyway. With YOUR HELP we thank them.”