ONE DAY AT WASHINGTON D.C. June 2010
I had the honor and privilege of being aboard the Honor Flight for WWII Veterans in June of 2010, where we were treated royally to an all-in-one-day tour of the various War Memorials and historical sites in Washington D.C.
We arrived at the Eastern Iowa Airport at 5 AM, greeted by a crowd of people waving American flags, shaking our hands and thanking us for serving our country! Everywhere we made a stop of any kind, we were met with the same response, even Dulles Airport where no one knew us, a large flag-waving crowd was on hand to welcome us! HyVee and Casey’s are to be highly commended for putting together and sponsoring this wonderful program!
We started with an orientation supper two weeks before the flight, where we met our guardian (3 Vets to 1 Guardian, unless you had a family member as your guardian) and received details about our trip. Once in D.C. there were 4 color-coded buses and the Vets and guardians were assigned to their bus, where roll call was taken each time, before the caravan left for the next viewing site…we never lost one Vet!
The entire trip was so well planned, it was unbelievable…just like clockwork! We all were given a small bag that had a 27 exposure disposable cameras, along with some other treats and goodies and throughout the day we were served sack lunches from time to time. A fleet of pickups carrying wheel chairs, followed behind the caravan of buses and at each stop the line of wheelchairs with a person behind each one, was available for anyone who need to use one. There were also plenty of ice-cold water bottles, along with wet washcloths and towels at each stop, which was very nice, since it was a HOT sunny day in June! Our Guardians did such an outstanding job looking out for us and they just bent over backwards to meet our every need! Marcy was our Guardian and she was AWESOME!
At the Iowa Memorial, we were greeted by Gov. Culver and Sen. Grassley and had our picture taken with them in front of the Iowa Stone of the WWII Memorial. I was fortunate to have my son Rick, his wife Nita and some of their family there, as they were in Maryland visiting their daughter and family. They all came out and we met a the various historical sites and memorials and got some fantastic pictures. That was a real treat for me!
One highlight and cherished memory for me, was the “mail call” that we Vets were surprised with on the flight home. This was planned and organized ahead of time and we received many letters, cards and notes from family, friends and school children in Cedar Rapids, thanking us for serving in the military and protecting our country during WWII.
Throughout our Honor Flight, there was a lot of good humor and a real sense of camaraderie between all the Vets, our guardians and staff members during the wonderful trip. Lo and behold as we deplaned in Cedar Rapids about 10:30 PM, we were met again by a HUGE cheering, flag-waving and very enthusiastic crowd…some family, some friends and most, people we’ve never met before, greeting us, shaking our hands, some even saluted! The local TV reporters were there with their cameramen as well, and Ron Steele from KWWL pulled me aside and interviewed me as we came down through the procession of people, all decked out in red, white and blue and some singing “God Bless America”! I had such an amazing time on their flight and have put together a picture album and scrapbook with all my mementos and souvenirs, including all the “mail call” letters I received. I enjoy looking through them from time to time, reflecting back on one of the most memorable experiences of my life: Honor Flight June 2010!
Eastern Iowa Honor Flight
A Day in Washington D.C. – June 2012
Bright and early on the morning of September 12, 2011, a chartered plane left the CR Airport filled with WWII Vets and their guardians. Medical personnel were also on board. Our son, Mike, was my guardian.
When we arrived at Dulles Airport in Washington, D.C., we boarded three buses, each with a tour guide, to take us to the WWII Monument, where a group picture was taken at the Fountain. I had the biggest surprise ever when I saw our daughter, Karen, son-in-law, Lee, grandson, Kyle, and his two daughters, Emily and Shelby, walking towards me! I had no idea they would be there and it caught me off guard. They were able to spend an hour with us, then we boarded the buses to see the points of interest in the city. Toward the end of the afternoon we left for Arlington National Cemetery to see the changing of the Guard. Then it was back to Dulles. We Vets thought we could nap on the way home, but another surprise awaited us. – “Mail Call”- where we received cherished letters from loved ones.
When we deplaned at the CR airport, a HUGE crowd was waiting for us. They made a wide aisle where each Guardian could push his or her Vet through the airport. Those in the front had outstretched hands waiting to welcome each Vet. “Thank you for your service” was heard over and over.
Arby’s provided 3 box meals, the weather was perfect, and it was a day I’ll never forget which was made possible by many volunteers. I thank each and everyone of them.
Eastern Iowa Honor Flight
ONE DAY AT WASHINGTON D.C.
A few years ago a group of people decided to do something special for World War II veterans. It was to be a one day flight to Washington D.C. and see all the veteran memorials and be back at the Eastern Iowa Airport by 10:30 PM. This was to be a free trip. After the World War II veterans have made the trip, I think Korean veterans will be the next to go.
Each veteran had a guardian. This could be a relative, friend or someone appointed by the people in charge. My guardian was Gary Lefebure who is the Fairfax Legion Commander. He has taken a few others so he knew just what we would be doing.
A few weeks before the trip there was a meeting at Hiawatha for everyone involved. We were told all about the trip and sights we would be seeing. Veterans and guardians were even issued white caps, the veterans got red T shirts, the guardians got blue T shirts. We were told to be at the Eastern Iowa Airport by 5:30 AM the morning of June 5th, so Gary picked me up at 5:00 AM. One attraction at the airport was a young lady from the Salvation Army. She was giving out doughnuts and coffee. She was dressed in World War I style, a long coat and a metal hat. Some of us got pictures with her.
A gift from HyVee was one of those onetime cameras. When the pictures were developed Hy Vee would do that for free. Then we loaded into the plane. All seats were already assigned to veterans and guardians for the trip to Washington D.C. and the same seats for the return trip.
The plane was a Boeing 737. This was of interest to me since I had never been on a big modern airliner. I thought of my cousin, Harold Staab who had worked for many years for Boeing in Seattle.
With everyone aboard, the plane taxied to our runway. When the pilot got the all clear, he opened the throttles and we could feel the tremendous power and soon we were airborne.
Gary & I had seats directly across from each other. There were about 80 veterans and our 80 guardians. They said we would be flying at 37,000 feet. It took us less than 2 hours to get to Dulles airport, Washington, D.C. We got a welcome greeting there.
From there everything was scheduled to the many memorials. We went from place to place by bus. The buses carried plenty of wheelchairs. In my case, I could walk okay for short distances, but most of these places would have required much walking, so Gary took me at the places we visited in a wheel chair. Restrooms were available at most places.
When we visited the WWII Memorial, a group picture was taken. Then we took a city bus tour of the city to include the Capitol, White House and Smithsonian Institute and others. We had a tour guide at the front of our bus who explained many of the places of interest. This lady was from the Philippines, but she knew American history from A to Z. I had been in Luzon, Philippines in 1945 so I had something in common with her.
Next we visited the Lincoln, Korean and Vietnam Memorials. We had box lunches on the buses to save time and had drinking water in plastic pint bottles often.
Next, we went to the Imo Jima Memorial with a large statue of the raising of the flag there. Group pictures were taken there also.
Next was the Air Force Memorial followed by Arlington National Cemetery where there were thousands of grave markers. While we were there, we saw the changing of the Guard.
We loaded the buses again for Dulles Airport and arrived there at 7:35 PM. We boarded our plane for the flight home. We had hot sandwiches to eat on the plane.
One thing I forgot to mention was at the Hiawatha meeting we were each given a very nice book of the places we would be seeing in Washington, D.C.
A good trip home, we arrived back at the Cedar Rapids Airport about 10:30 PM. We got to the terminal at 11:00 PM. We were surprised at the tremendous turnout of the people there to greet us. I guess the news media did a good job to encourage people to come out to greet us. There were relatives, friends, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Legion Members, young people, older people, just a lot of wonderful people who gave up a half night’s sleep to see us back home. My guardian said these were the most people he has seen at a return home. One man said he was hugged for the most times in his life, I can say the same thing.
The whole thing was just a wonderful thing they did for all of us veterans. I was in the 25th Infantry Division in the Pacific War for 38 months. I came home right after the war with Japan ended. I got my Army Discharge on November 3, 1945.
P.S. I was 23 yrs old when I entered the Army and 27 yrs old when I was discharged. I am 93 yrs old now.
Also, besides Andrew’s Honor Flight, he was the Grand Marshall of the Fairfax, IA Freedom Parade on June 23, 2012. Congrats to You, Andrew!