Welcome to a multi-post series of the Guns Save Life group’s Honor Flight trip on September 19th. There’s FAR too much to put in a single post, so I’m going to make a series of it. Probably will combine one or two stops into each post. I tried to post full-size images for those who want to download then and save/print them but it may not work depending on browser (or our server). (Right click them and then chose “save image as” or “open image in new tab” may get you a full-size image.)
The night before
The supremely gracious and kind people at the VFW Post 755 in Springfield hosted many of the Honor Flight veterans and guardians (and guests) for a fried chicken dinner the night before. The veterans were treated like royalty, eating free with some great food. Two hundred plus were on hand and then there were scores of volunteers who made it all possible.
We recognized five or six World War II veterans present with a standing ovation. One was a survivor of the Battle of the Bulge. Two accompanied us on the flight… and finding World War II vets, especially ambulatory ones, is a rarity.
There was an opportunity to get t-shirts and some Honor Flight swag.
After dinner, many of the folks retreated the Ramada Northfield to rest before the flight. Like many, 2:30 came early.
Tuesday, September 19th… Pre-flight, flight, and landing at Reagan National.
Then a short ride to the Capital City airport.
3:45 is still early.
They said not to arrive before 4am, but as you can tell by the clock, there were a whole lot of excited people who couldn’t wait. I know a couple who arrived before 3am. We’ll allow you guys to remain nameless.
Before we got to screening, Honor Flight folks had the veterans sign a poster for the flight.
And then to TSA. I was a little worried about it, but it went smoothly.
After TSA screening, we were greeted by peeps from Bunn (the coffeemaker people) serving coffee and Dunkin Donuts. Nelson catering brought sausage, bacon and egg sanwiches (or ham). When I dug into mine, I saw they served it with double meat and probably double egg. It was a monster and it was good (and hot). Dunkin Donuts might have had people there, I don’t remember. I was so taken aback by the Bunn folks. They were obviously management and dressed very crisply for the early hour. Hats off to them, but it was just the first taste of the hospitality and kindness extended to the veterans.
From there we got on the plane. World War II vets first, then wheelchairs, then Korean vets (we had about 7 or 8 of them) and then the Vietnam vets. A few needed help getting on and off the plane, and they got priority treatment and first in and first out.
I had the distinct honor of serving as the guardian for not one, but two hero veterans… Marc Roderick (a regular at Champaign County GSL for decades) and Dick Brandt our Champaign County Regional Director. Yes, red shirts went to Vietnam-era vets, yellow for Korean and green for guardians. Each had their own quote on the back.
People just kept coming and coming.
The flight crew welcome us and the flight was smooth and fast. We made it to DC, from wheels up to wheels down in a little under 90 minutes.
Once on the ground, we were treated to the high honor of a water cannon salute. What’s the significance of that honor? From Wiki:
A water salute is an occasional occurrence used for a ceremonial purpose. It typically consists of a vehicle which travels under plumes of water expelled by one or more fire-fighting vehicles, as a mark of respect or appreciation.
At an airport, typically an even number of airport crash tender fire-fighting vehicles will arrange themselves perpendicularly along the sides of a taxiway or apron; they will emit coordinated plumes of water will form an arch (or series of arches) as an aircraft passes. Symbolically, the procession looks similar to a bridal party walking under a wedding arch or the saber arch at a military wedding.
Water salutes have been used to mark the retirement of a senior pilot or air traffic controller, the first or last flight of an airline to an airport, the first or last flight of a specific type of aircraft, as a token of respect for the remains of soldiers killed in action, or other notable events. When Concorde flew its last flight in 2003 from John F. Kennedy International Airport, red, white and blue coloured plumes were used.
Water salutes are also used for ships and other watercraft, with water being delivered by fireboats. This is often done for the first or last visit or retirement of a senior captain, the first or last cruise of a ship, the visit of a warship, or other ceremonial occasions. A notable example was the water salute to HMS Hermes (R12) as she returned to Southampton following her part in the victory of the Falklands War.
Not a whole lot of folks have had that honor. But that was just the first high honor our veterans experienced that day.
Once we deplaned and got into the terminal, the veterans were given a standing ovation by airport staff and even a handful of travelers present.
It was pretty amazing.
Honor Flight even had people there greeting the vets as we assembled near restrooms prior to boarding our buses.