Two week ago, we made a last minute trip up to the D.C. area to visit family and participate in the 70th anniversary V-E Day celebrations at the National World War Two Memorial. Last September was our first visit to the memorial, and ever since then we have been itching to get back. It was a fabulous week starting with a memorial service emceed by one of our favorite authors, Alex Kershaw, a fly over of some of the best WWII aircraft, hundreds of veterans, thousands of spectators, blistering heat, sore feet, melting lipstick, and happy hearts. (beware: lots of pictures below!)
After the celebrations on the 8th, the party continued out at the Udvar Hazy Center (National Air and Space Museum) where there was a living history camp with numerous jeeps and tents, a fly-in of a few of the planes from the previous day, live music performed by the superb United States Air Force Band, and, topping it off, we got to see our friends from DFW Honor Flight two days in a row.
Over the following days, we had the best time greeting Honor Flights from South Carolina, Illinois, Arizona, and Puget Sound. We met a couple of these Honor Flights last year, so it was great to see some of their amazing staff again and meet their new veterans. Living down at the bottom of Texas, this is a wonderful opportunity to meet folks from so many different states. Each brings a unique element from their hometown, with lots of memories and stories to share. It is really remarkable the affect the WWII Memorial has on some of these dear folks. Seeing the wall of stars or the name of a battle they were a part of, written in stone, recalls to mind many dusty memories.
One of the veterans made a comment to us that we mentioned elsewhere but is well worth repeating. We were standing in front of the wall of gold stars (each representing 100 men and equaling a total of 4,048 gold stars), and, as we talked, he sort of turned and looked at the wall and said thoughtfully, “There is a star on that wall that was supposed to be for me. But it is for my friend instead. He took my place.” The remark was brief, and he soon moved on to another topic, but later on, when we asked him about it he said, “I don’t like to talk about the war... It was in the middle of a fight, and I moved over and my buddy was hit by a grenade right where I had been.” The brevity of his comment made it all the more impactful. In just a few words he communicated a tremendous depth of feeling such that anything more might have been too much.
It was a lovely and memorable week for us and the veterans up there. The Honor Flight staff and the wonderful people who volunteer their time at the Memorial greeting Honor Flights with smiles, hugs, motorcycles, and dancing add so much to the experience, and the veterans go home with pleasant memories of their trip to D.C.