Honor Flight Conyers takes off (April 19, 2012)
Our day started at 3:45 a.m. when I picked up my veteran from the Hampton Inn to transport to the American Legion Post 77 for our day trip. I was a guardian to Mr. James Walker Wood Jr., and boy was he excited to go. He told me he tried to go last year and was so glad he was accepted this time. While at the American Legion, we waited for all to arrive before boarding our buses for transport to the airport. When everyone arrived, we boarded two buses and were escorted by Rockdale County Sheriffs Office and the Patriot Riders out of Kennesaw with lights and flags. The veterans on our bus were so excited and there was a lot of chatter as we ate our breakfast, brought by Merryvale Assisted Living in Oxford.
We arrived at the airport before dawn, got our wheelchairs and made our way through security to our gate for departure. There was still so much excitement in the air and all around. We boarded the plane on time and Mr. Wood and I looked through a World War II book I brought along, written by my late father-in-law, William C. Wroe, during his time in World War II.
It didn't seem like one and a half hours in the air before we landed and were off and loaded on our tour bus for the day. Our first stop was the World War II Memorial. We got off the bus with instructions to meet on the Atlantic side of the memorial under the Georgia flag for a special presentation. A veteran who was signed up to go had passed away a week before the trip. The oldest veteran Mr. Jesse Farris, accepted a folded flag on behalf of the family of a veteran who was to go. It was such a special moment for all.
We were left to walk around the memorial and meet back in the middle for a group picture. While we were waiting to locate the last veteran for the photo, the rest were lined up in wheelchairs, with some standing behind. Visitors quickly realized they had World War II veterans in their midst. One boy, a visitor to the memorial, walked over to shake hands with the first veteran in line. This started a crowd to line up and they all shook the hand of every veteran and thanked him/her for their service. There were few dry eyes among us. Then we proceeded with the group picture of the veterans and then the guardians with the group.
We headed back up to the bus to have a lunch, provided by Arby's. We all spread out around the Pacific side of the memorial to eat. While eating, there were people stopping by to show their appreciation and to have their pictures taken with the veterans.
Next, we were off to the Korean, Vietnam and Lincoln memorials to walk around a bit and take more pictures. After this, we headed up to the Air Force memorial on the other side of Arlington National Cemetery. While at the Air Force memorial we saw there was a funeral procession going on over in Arlington. We noticed it was a Marine marching band and there was a horse drawn carriage with a casket. It was a very solemn moment.
We headed over to Arlington National Cemetery around 3:30 p.m. to witness the changing of the guards. Once we got the veterans all lined up the process began. It was awesome to see. There was an added extra special event that made this all the more special. There were four middle school children involved with the laying of the wreath. All the Honor Flight veterans who were able to stand did and saluted in honor of the Unknown Soldier and the laying of the wreath. It was so great and once again there weren't too many dry eyes about.
Afterwards, we had to head back to the airport. We arrived around 5:30 p.m. and were welcomed by the USO for dinner in a room setup. After dinner we escorted all to the gate and were welcomed by other passengers clapping and cheering.
We all boarded the plane and on takeoff there were water canons to salute the World War II veterans. This was done by fire trucks spraying water over the plane from both sides. The veterans all loved this.
This was one of the most special times I have ever had and would have not missed it for the world. If I get another opportunity to go I would in a minute.
There is another trip May 22 and one in September planned if there are enough funds raised. So please send your donations to Honor Flight of Conyers, PO Box 81122, Conyers, GA 30013 or call (770) 483-4049 for information.