Proud to be an Honor Flight Guardian by Fire Marshal Dallis Johnson

October 10, 2008

This spring, I got the opportunity to greet the Honor Flight when they came home. I thought this was a great program and I signed up for the October Flight as a guardian. I had no idea what an awesome experience I was in for.

I met my two veterans a couple weeks before the flight. On that day, I started to see something that led me believe I was in for an eye opener. As a veteran myself, I have always been extremely patriotic, but what I saw that day brought tears to my eyes. At our meeting with these World War II Veterans, I noticed several were in wheelchairs. Considering their advanced age, this was no surprise. The event that struck me so deeply was during the Pledge of Allegiance. I saw several of these great warriors from decades ago, struggle to stand on their feeble legs and salute THEIR flag. No one would have blamed them for remaining seated, but they stood proudly! I watched them through teary eyes and admired them greatly for that.

IMG_4033When we arrived in DC, we took our veterans around all the monuments and helped them in every way we could. It was the least we could do for these few remaining warriors from the greatest generation of our Nation’s history. As these men walked slowly around this spectacular monument that was erected in their honor, I was even more amazed at what transformed before my eyes. These feeble men that I had known moments before came to life in a new way. I watched them swell with pride, shed a tear one minute and smile the next. I saw them stare across the field. I knew that it was not an object they focused on, but a memory from their past. Perhaps it was a fallen friend and comrade. At this moment, these men standing before me were ten feet tall and were mighty in my eyes. They were young again.

Some of the veterans wore medals on their Honor Flight T-shirts and even a few wore their WWII uniform jackets with medals proudly displayed. One of my veterans turned to me and tried to tell me about an incident that happened during the war. He broke down and cried. Although I did not understand the words he spoke, I understood him perfectly well...  As we stood there together, both of us wiping our eyes, he said to me, “I’m sorry, this is very emotional”. I did the best I could to tell him he did not owe me (or anyone else for that matter) an apology, but I was having trouble talking through the lump in my throat. I watched them sit and talk as we eat lunch together. I had a hard time swallowing that sandwich with that lump in my throat. I listened to them talk about life after the war. Some of them said they came home to nothing, no job and no real money to hold them. But…I never heard one of these great men complain. They simply said they did the best they could with what little they had. They started families and raised them. These great men fought for our freedoms and asked for nothing. When they came home, they went back to their lives, found work, and made our country great.  It was an honor for me to serve them that day, yet they continually thanked me.

Signed,

An Honor Flight Guardian and a Proud American

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