Boarding a plane at Washington Dulles we were held aside while 50 WWII veterans, filed past to board first. Even in high-pressure D.C. no one complained. In fact I, like others, felt honored to stand aside and offer a kind of friendly honor guard as they boarded.
As their line slowly passed mine I talked to several guys. One remarkably spry fellow told me he was 94, and that the man behind him was his baby brother. The younger man, only 85, told me there were four brothers, all of whom had gone to war – and come back alive. I thought of their mother and father, long dead now, and the years of agony they must have experienced with all four of their sons in a war. I heard there were two Pearl Harbor survivors in the group but never met them. I did however talk to a man who proudly announced that he was the youngest of the whole bunch, at only 81. I quickly did the math and said “Wait a minute, you must have been a kid!” “Yep,” he answered, “I enlisted at 16.”
A woman in line behind me googled “World War II veterans Washington DC” on her cell phone and relayed to us that a nonprofit had been formed in recent years, called Honor Flight Network, to bring groups of veterans to DC to see the WWII Memorial on the National Mall. The whole experience made me feel good. Good that these men are alive, and that after the horrors of the largest war in human history they had lived long and I hope peaceful lives. But I also felt good that the nonprofit sector had provided a vehicle for a group of volunteers to organize, raise funds, and give these men some small measure of the boundless thanks they deserve.