This rarely happens: A story on CNN this morning had me crying in my cereal. The story followed a group of WW II veterans on an escorted VIP trip to DC to see the WW II Memorial.
As those honored by the newest memorial on the Mall are getting up in years, it was a chance many of them never thought they'd have to see it. And the looks on their faces were just . . . almost indescribable. In my personal quest to make Memorial Day about more than just a day off, I investigated a group making these trips possible.
Honor Flight, an organization founded in 2004 by a retired Air Force Captain named Earl Morse, takes veterans on a safe, free trip to see their memorial. Funded almost completely by individual donations, the organization has a trip taking off from Alabama this week. One of the men going said “They just treated us like kings. I’ve never been treated better. It got me so excited about going, I can’t hardly stand it.” A hallmark of the experience are the enthusiastic welcome ceremonies greeting the veterans at the airports. One who took a recent trip said modestly of the fuss, "we didn’t deserve it, but we’ll take it." To see the organization's plans and how you can help, read more.
Honor Flight has 4,000 veterans on their waiting list for a trip. They're accepting applications for guardians, volunteers, and donations. According to their site,
"In 2007, approximately 1,200 World War II Veterans died every DAY. In another 5-10 years almost all of our WWII Veterans will be gone. This trip is their “last hurrah,” the last time they will be recognized as the conquering victors that collectively and literally saved the world."
They've got big goals for '08: transporting 12,000 veterans and expanding from hubs in 30 states to all 50. Though their online donation service wasn't working for me this morning, there's an address and all kinds of emails and phone numbers — I just couldn't be more delighted about this heartwarming organization. I'd love to volunteer. What about you?