The men and women who fought to keep our nation free, battled against a government that shutdown its memorial sites over a budget dispute. Aging veterans of World War II and the Korean War flew a charter flight into Reagan National this morning to see sights they admit they may never see again. Veterans felt lumps in their throat, tears in their eyes and smiles on their faces. The Honor Flight Syracuse volunteer organizers, staff and guardians were equally touched.
The moment the veterans walked or were wheeled off the plane in D.C. a welcome committee struck up the band. Children waved the American flag. Congressman shook hands. Family embraced loved one after travelling long distances to share in this day. Then there were the patriotic strangers who welcomed these soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines.
Guardians in yellow t-shirts helped the veterans in red t-shirts on and off the tour buses. They gave a push in a wheel chair if needed. Many did not need it.
Men like Howard Hall who at 93 years old made sure we didn't take a picture of him needing any help at all. He served in the South Pacific in the United States Army. He then returned home to Oswego and made his life.
The lives made by all these service men and women have been grand and full. Those same qualities are reflected in the World War II monument. Each step taken brings you deeper into its magnificence.
Former Army nurse Thelma Dillon joined family from across the country. Places like Hawaii, Texas and Central New York. At the age of 99, she sets a remarkable example for children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
A temporary shutdown of the government could not keep Americans of this caliber for connecting with the past that laid a foundation for a nation. Honor Flight and its supporters made this no-cost trip a reality. The pay back was rich for all involved. Especially for the veterans who at every turn on the Washington Mall were greeted with a familiar phrase and a shake of their hand. "Thank you for your service!"
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