Yesterday I had the incredible experience to be part of something that was completely unbelievably cool. It is a day I wont forget for a long, long time. It is hard to put into words what it felt like.
I was able to go and take pictures for a group called Puget Sound Honor Flight, PSHF. There are many hubs of this group whose mission is to give World War II veterans the opportunity to go to Washington DC and visit the WWII memorial. PSHF is new and this was only their 2nd flight. They had 32 vets and 22 guardians (helpers for the vets) on this trip. The national organization has been around for many years. I had responded to a request on a photography meet up group to come and photograph these vets as they leave on their trip. I was one of 3 volunteer photographer (along with the official – who gets to go on the trip).
The motto of Honor Flights is “One Last Mission”.
My granddad was a WWII veteran (Army) and so I thought it would be cool to serve them since I am not able to serve my grandfather very often. I loved finding out more about where he served and what he did in the war. I was looking forward to being able to talk with these vets.
I was blown away. It is hard to put into words what I felt. I felt great love and admiration for these men. I was inspired by their humility. I realized I was talking with the real guys – the ones who did all those things we learn about in school. And wished that they could all talk to my kids so they could hear it from the mouths of those who lived it. A couple of times I was so happy that I had a camera in front of my face because I had tears coming down my cheeks, for no reason at all. Except I was among greatness. I hope that someone has written down the stories.
I will try to just give you the tip of what I learned and hopefully the pictures will tell a much better story than I can tell.
When they veterans got there they were greeted by smiles and hugs. Everyone was so happy to see them. Most had never met the others before, but before long they were talking like old friends.
One of my favorite guys (okay had 5 or 6 favorites – okay everyone that I had a chance to talk with were my favorite) was a B-17 bomber who was sitting and chatting with me telling me all about where he had gone to learn to become a pilot. A B-24 bomber came up to him and seeing the B-17 on his hat proceeded to compare sleeping arrangements of a B-24 vs a B-17. I smiled walked backed and let them continue their discussion.
Most that I talked with had never been to the memorial before. Many had a child (Son or daughter) accompanying them as their guardian (all the vet’s had a guardian – part of the program). One vet had 3 sons meeting him in DC since they didn’t live in the Seattle area.
We headed to security. They were amazing to these vets – they allowed us to photograph the TSA agents (all who were smiling).
Once everyone had gotten through security uniformed TSA marched in front of them as the group proceeded through the terminal to their gate.
They were not fast, but as they walked past the food courts and shops, people stopped looked and started to clap.
They were applauded along their way to the gate. They had smiles and one guardian (child of the vet) told me that his dad has never had anything like this done before for him.
As we were waiting at the gate, a passenger on the plane was asking what the group was and after I told him, he said “They were the greatest generation”. I have to agree after spending 3 hours with them. They are the real thing. They are hero’s. We can’t even begin to understand the numbers who lost their lives to protect our freedom, but they can.
The captain of the plane came out prior to boarding and he shook hands with all of them. I heard him talking to a vet whose boat had been torpedoed and he jumped in the water at 1:30 pm and swam until 6 pm when he was finally picked up. The Pilot said “Don’t you jump off my ship”
In the end what tells the story the most is the baseball caps (many had one one), the jackets and the smiles.
If you want to be uplifted and reminded of all that is good – check out your local Honor Flight chapter and go to the airport to watch them leave or when they arrive home. You will be able to meet real Hero’s.
Looking forward to the next time, when I can rub shoulders with greatness.
Here a just a couple of more of my favorite pictures..