So I’m in the airport, marveling at my ability to book yet another delayed flight, when a few dozen active duty Air Force personnel stop by to say hello. Turns out they weren’t shipping out – they were simply on hand to welcome some veterans back home from an Honor Flight. I asked if I could tag along. They said sure.
If you’re not familiar with Honor Flights, it’s a charity that operates in various cities all over the country. Their mission is simple: they flies hundreds of WWII and Korean War vets to Washington, D.C., free of charge. There, they visit and reflect – usually for the first time – at the memorial for the war in which they fought.
If you’ve not seen video of these men come face to face with an expression of national gratitude, grab a box of tissues and google Honor Flights. It’s powerful, and I think important to see.
Anyway, this is the third time I’ve been in an airport when a plane-full of these men and women return home from their visit to the Capital. Today, I happened to be in New Mexico, but it really doesn’t matter where I am – it’s always the same. It’s always humbling to see them deplane. It’s always uplifting to see strangers stop and applaud. And it’s always an honor to chat them up.
I’ve met a handful of ninety-year old men who survived D-Day, Anzio, and The Battle of the Bulge. I’ve met several who walked out of the Chosin Reservoir, and still curse the cold. Their stories are remarkable, and their tears of gratitude upon the receiving an unexpected and spontaneous welcome home will make you forget all about your delayed flight.
In fact, it’ll make you happy to be delayed in Albuquerque.