By Norman Isaacson, PhD
Anticipation is a peculiar state of mind. If you are thinking of something done previously, then you know what to expect. However, if you are anticipating an event never before done, then you are really in the dark.
Such was the case for me when I accepted an invitation to take part in the May 20th Hudson Valley Honor Flight for World War II and Korean War Veterans.
My first involvement with Honor Flight personnel was on Sun., May 7 when all participants met at Westchester Community College. That meeting was called a “Meet and Greet.” At that meeting the May 20th trip was fully explained and prepared me and the other WW II and Korean War veterans for an exceptional moment in time. It was there I met my “guardian” who was to be my constant companion for the entire trip.
At 4:45 a.m. on Sat., May 20 I was picked up at my home by an assigned driver and taken to Westchester County Airport for the flight to Washington, DC. At the airport, veterans were assigned to specific buses for a trip around Westchester County. The four bus “convoy” was escorted by over 150 motorcycle riders including police personnel and civilians from local clubs along with representative police automobiles from local departments.
On that trip around the county we were saluted at every fire house and at avenues where local citizens were on hand to applaud and celebrate the upcoming trip. Needless to say, none of that was expected, but it was certainly appreciated.
The bus convoy eventually returned to the airport where we were escorted to a private hanger for the “going away” ceremony. In that hanger there was a band, several hundred well-wishers and local dignitaries. Speeches were made to ensure the seriousness of the occasion and to remind all present of the veterans who were unable to attend because of age, infirmity, or because they had lost their lives in WW II or Korea. It was a very solemn moment for everyone.
We took off at 9:34 a.m. and landed at Reagan International Airport less than an hour later. Again we boarded busses for the trip to the first stop – the World War II Memorial. Once there we met former Senator Bob Dole, who is there every Saturday to meet the public and arriving Honor Flight veterans. With him, photos were taken, words were exchanged and then we walked to the Memorial entrance. Every foot of that walk to the Memorial entrance was once again, past hundreds of citizens whose sole purpose was to celebrate our arrival.
After an hour at that Memorial we next went to the Korean War Memorial where we were treated with similar expressions of good cheer by ordinary citizens who had come out to wish us well. Making up the applauding and cheering crowd were older folks, scores of children and even a contingent of girl scouts handing out boxes of free cookies.
I must add that in addition to our Hudson Valley Honor Flight group there were other Flights present from Cleveland, Ohio; Tallahassee, Florida; and the State of Missouri. Hundreds of veterans and Memorial visitors constituted the enormous crowds of well-wishers.
Our next stop was Arlington National Cemetery where we witnessed the very solemn and formal Changing of the Guard. There are not a great many affirmative displays that pay homage to this country’s historical significance that can match the Changing of the Guard at our National Cemetery.
From there we were back on the busses to pass other memorials. The foremost being the one dedicated to the Iwo Jima Flag Raising. After that, we were taken to a local hotel for a splendid dinner.
Then back on the busses for the short trip to the Reagan International airport. There were significant crowds cheering us at the airport plus a group of eight women who tap danced to a score of Glenn Miller tunes. A tap dancing welcoming committee was as completely unexpected as most of the day’s happenings.
The American Airlines jet which brought us to Washington was waiting at the exact same spot of our arrival. With little fuss we boarded our plane for the trip back to Westchester County. At that location I met my assigned driver who got me home at 10:30 p.m.
My day started at 4:45 a.m. and concluded at 10:30 p.m. It was a day I will never forget since it is a rare moment to be amongst other veterans who have had experiences somewhat similar to my own – no two are the same. This was a special day for all of us. We shared a no-expense trip to our nation’s capital and met significant numbers of Honor Flight Volunteers whose efficiency and dedication still leaves me in deep appreciation.
I wanted to write this brief account to emphasize the competence and skill of the Hudson Valley Honor Flight Organization whose tireless efforts produced a most memorable day for me and every other veteran who took part.
Hudson Valley Honor Flight serving veterans of the Hudson Valley is the local chapter of the national Honor Flight Network. It is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization created solely to honor America’s veterans. I guess it is fair to say that as a non-profit organization, donations and volunteers are always needed and certainly appreciated.
In general, real patriotism is not part of the daily thinking of those I will call typical citizens. Most of us are so deeply involved with our families, our jobs, and our lives that we might neglect to reflect on the greatness of this country and what has been sacrificed by so many to establish and maintain its greatness.
As Americans we have overcome past misfortunes and we will continue to overcome whatever obstacles we will meet in the future.