My journey on the 'Flight of Honor'

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Andrew S. Hostetter
  • 4th Contracting Squadron
I had the privilege of being a guardian on the Triangle Flight of Honor that transported more than 100 World War II veterans to Washington, D.C., for a day of remembrance and recognition May 4. The veterans visited the WWII Memorial, the Air Force Memorial, the Air and Space Museum, the Iwo Jima Memorial and Arlington National Cemetery. Even though it was a long and busy day, it was a day I wouldn't trade for the world and will never forget.

I arrived at the Raleigh-Durham International Airport at 6 a.m. expecting to wait for the veterans I would escort to arrive; however, I was surprised to see two of the three were so excited for the trip they were already waiting inside. While we waited for the others to show up, we carried on small talk and got to know each other a little bit. Once everyone arrived, we prepared for the rigorous process of getting through security, which for most doesn't seem so bad, but the 100 Veterans who had to remove their shoes and belts made for an interesting experience.

After arriving in our nation's capital, we headed to the WWII Memorial where we were greeted by North Carolina State Senator Richard Burr. After he spoke to the group for a few minutes, we went to see the memorial. The memorial itself is beautiful and strategically positioned between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument; however, the veterans were most interested in the quotes written throughout the memorial. A few of the quotes even brought tears to the veteran's eyes.

When we finished our visit to the WWII Memorial, we went to the Air and Space Museum. My group went out to the balcony so we could view the majority of the museum floor where the planes were displayed. Then I rallied them up to head down to see the planes and one of them told me to stop because he wanted to keep looking. I asked him, "Which plane did you fly?" He looked around for a few seconds and then said, "That one, that one, that one, and that one." I was not expecting that answer and I was quite amazed by the response.

Once we visited the rest of the monuments, it was time to depart Washington, D.C. On the plane home there was a surprise mail call which brought smiles to the veterans, as I am sure it did during their time in the service. I don't even think it mattered to them what the letters said, the real joy came from knowing someone out there was thinking of them.

When we arrived at RDU International Airport the veterans were greeted by more than 1,000 people in the atrium. The veterans kept thanking everyone for being there to support them, even though the point of the welcome was to thank them for their service. This was the most emotional part of the entire journey and the veterans were extremely grateful. This was a once-in-a-lifetime event I will remember and share throughout my Air Force career. From what I understand, the next Triangle "Flight of Honor" will be this fall. If you get a chance to volunteer to be a guardian, don't hesitate. If you can't take the time to go to the airport, at least be part of the welcome home celebration. I wasn't just an escort that day, I was a friend.