Freedom Is Not Free My Trip to Washington DC with Honor Flight
Tomorrow, the United States will celebrate her independence. We call it the 4th of July, or Independence Day because it was on July 4, 1776 that the Declaration of Independence was adopted. So many have risked their lives to establish and defend our freedom.
This blog speaks to their honor. Specifically, I want to share with you what I observed during my recent trip to Washington DC with a group of Korean War veterans.
A few weeks ago I accompanied my stepdad Jack, thirty other Korean War veterans, and two WWII veterans to visit our capital. We went with an amazing organization called Honor Flight. Seeing the majority of these brave veterans—at an average age of 80, many in wheel chairs—looking at the national monuments, and saluting the US flag for which they risked their lives, gave me goose bumps.
Those moments inspired me to think more about our freedom, the cost to get it and to defend it, and those honorable citizens who sacrifice and donate their time and treasure to honor the veterans. It’s a full cycle, that in whatever city or country we live in, we must be mindful of how we can actively participate in defending our freedom or honoring those who do.
Some Things Are Worth Dying For
The week before my trip to DC, I visited the US Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs with a few family members (a must see if you ever have a chance to go there). As we toured the museum at the Academy, my young nephew said to me, “Uncle, I would never join the military.” “Why not?” I asked. He replied, “I don’t want to get killed.”
Would I give my life to defend my family, my country, and our freedom? Have you ever thought about that? I think I would, but I have never been forced to test that proposition. The veterans I traveled with had. I told my young nephew, “Buddy, some things are worth dying for.” He looked at me and smiled. The veteran men (and one woman) I traveled with to DC had to face and settle this question early in their lives: Would I die for my country?
At Washington DC’s WWII Memorial there are gold stars on display, each star representing 100 deaths. These are a testament to those who have given their lives to protect our way of life and our freedoms. There are over 4,000 gold stars!
Give Honor to Whom Honor Is Due
I am actually writing this blog while sitting on a bus with the other volunteers and veterans, riding around Washington DC looking at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, and other historical landmarks. And I see people walking and touring, also admiring these veteran’s courage to lead us forward.
On the trip we also visited the Korean War Veterans Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and the Iwo Jima Memorial (The United States Marine Corps War Memorial). Then we stopped at Arlington National Cemetery and watched the changing of the guard. What a solemn place of honor.
We ended the trip by visiting the Air Force Base. Their world-class band performed popular tunes from the 40’s and 50’s. All the female volunteers with us asked the veterans to dance. It was a sight to see! It filled my heart to see the Veterans honored.
One of the older veterans was especially weak and in a wheel chair. A kind volunteer asked him for a dance (pictured below), and they danced for a few minutes. She had to help him remain standing by holding him up by the belt. Those are the kind of people who volunteer for Honor Flight. Angels.
Freedom Is Not Free
Honor Flight is a non-profit organization which began in 2006. It has over 100 chapters in different American cities aiming to take WWII and Korean Veterans to see Washington DC. Veterans travel free of charge. Each veteran has to have a Guardian. (I was Jack’s Guardian.) The guardians and volunteers pay their own way. The organization is completely supported by private donors. Also many medical and support volunteers go along for the trip.
For two days, they treated each veteran with such dignity and honor. To them I give my utmost respect and deepest gratitude. Jack told me on the way back home, “You know Wes, that dance with those young ladies yesterday…you know it makes you feel young again.”
When we landed back at Dallas Love Field around 9:30 pm, there were no less than 500 people who had formed two cheering lanes in the airport. To the great surprise of the veterans deboarding the plane, they walked between two lines of cheering crowds that assembled that night only to honor these veterans. As I walked behind Jack, I observed many of them extend their hand to shake his, and say, “Thank you for your service.” All those who risk so much and sacrifice so deeply to defend our values, they pay the price for us to enjoy our freedom.
And on this 4th of July, I too want to say thank you for your service.
Actionable Step: If you have a relative who is a WWII or Korean War veteran, you may want to see if they would like to visit Washington DC with Honor Flight. If you would like to go as a guardian, volunteer with your local Honor Flight chapter, or donate to their organization, please click here. I highly recommend their organization.
What I Am Reading Now: Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter by Liz Wiseman and Greg McKeown.
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