A few months ago, I was sitting in the Phoenix airport, waiting for my flight home from the DRJ conference I attended with colleagues from our Warminster facility. There was an unusual buzz in the concourse which made me think a celebrity – or perhaps a presidential candidate – was about to make an appearance.
World War II Honor Flight
Instead, there was an announcement asking everyone to stand for a group of WWII veterans who were heading to the gate for their Honor Flight to Washington, D.C., to visit the World War II Memorial. Moments later, a group of approximately 30 WWII veterans entered the concourse. Some were in wheelchairs, some were using walkers and some were walking on their own. The ugly rhetoric and divisiveness of the campaign season ceased to exist as every person in the concourse rose to their feet, applauded, cheered and saluted these amazing veterans. There wasn’t a dry eye in the concourse, including mine.
It suddenly dawned on me that my flight home was connecting through Baltimore, which meant the Honor Flight was also my flight. The Honor Flight Network is a non-profit organization created solely to honor America’s veterans for all their sacrifices. Honor Flight transports our heroes to Washington, D.C., to visit and reflect at their memorials. Top priority is given to the senior veterans: World War II survivors, along with those other veterans who may be terminally ill.
Southwest Airlines is the official Commercial Carrier of The Honor Flight Network and provides complimentary tickets for veterans for their Honor Flight. The veterans and their companions (known as Guardians on Honor Flights) were almost childlike in their excitement as they boarded the flight. It was equally heartwarming to see the Southwest crew’s excitement at being assigned to work this flight. The smiles of the veterans and the flight crew were so bright there was no need for cabin lights as we civilians boarded after the veterans filled the front rows.
Thoughts from Some of IWCO Direct’s Veterans
Actor, author, humorist, and pundit Will Rogers said, “We can’t all be heroes. Some of us have to stand on the curb and clap as they walk by.” I had a chance to stand and clap for our WWII heroes a few months ago. I’m honored to be able to (virtually) stand and clap again today to showcase two of IWCO Direct’s veterans from our Warminster facility.
Dennis Mead is a US Navy veteran who describes Veterans Day as a day to reflect on the veterans who have served or are serving our country. He said, “I come from a long line of veterans. My great aunt, grandfather, my uncles, and my father served 24 years in the Navy. And of course, I served from 1989 to 1993 on board the USS Ranger CV-61. I was part of two six-month deployments to the Persian Gulf for Operation Desert Storm and then Operation Southern Watch that followed the war. Seems like a lifetime ago, yet I carry those experiences with me every day.”
The concept of freedom is important to Dennis. He said, “As a member of the Armed Services, a veteran serves to defend the freedom of the United States of America−the ‘idea’ of freedom. The veteran’s experience of sacrificing personal freedom, time and even life can never be measured. We can honor veterans by understanding and appreciating the freedoms that those who have served have brought to our country. Freedom can be realized through opportunity and advantages that living in a ‘free’ country like America provides. The smallest things in our daily lives are brought to us via freedom. So, thank you to ALL veterans who have served and are currently serving and thank you for our FREEDOM!”
Bryan Johnson joined the Marine Corps a month before his 18th birthday. Since he was only 17, his parents had to co-sign his enlistment contract. Bryan left for boot camp the day after Super Bowl XXV, in the middle of the first Gulf War. When the youngest member of his platoon dropped out after three weeks of boot camp, Bryan became the youngest member of the platoon.
According to Bryan, “Veterans Day gives us a time every year to think about all the sacrifices our service men and women have made throughout the years and continue to make to keep this country great. It is about honoring them and paying respect to those who gave their lives for our freedoms. The Marine Corps birthday is the day before Veterans Day and, as a US Marine, it means a little more to me. I still get the chills any time the Marine Corps Anthem or even the National Anthem is played. It is also a time of the year that I think about all the people that I served under and with and how some of these people made me the person I am today. Semper Fidelis (‘Always Faithful’) is the Marine Corps motto and I try to live by that – always faithful to God, Country and Corps. I would like to wish a Happy Veterans Day to all who have served in the Armed Forces.”
On this Veterans Day, IWCO Direct recognizes all who have served our country, especially our IWCO Direct veterans across the country. We have the utmost respect and admiration for your service that protects our freedoms. Thank you.
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