Armed Forces Day / Honor Flight Super Saturday

President Harry S. Truman led the effort to establish a single holiday for citizens to come together and thank our military members for their patriotic service in support of our country. On August 31, 1949, Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson announced the creation of an Armed Forces Day to replace separate Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force Days. The single day celebration stemmed from the unification of the Armed Forces under the Department of Defense. -

It would not be a proper May without a Super Saturday at the WWII Memorial. Over the last few years, this has become an unintentional tradition (and one that I'm most happy to continue into the future!), as each May some or all of us end up in D.C. just in time for a Super Saturday.


Notes from May 19:

Armed Forces Day / Despite the dreary skies, spirits and energy were high at the National World War II Memorial today as we welcomed 9 Honor Flights from all over the country, Oregon to New York!! At one point, we even had 3 full flights invade the Memorial at the same time - the happiest and most wonderful organized chaos. I can think of no better way to spend this special day recognizing our troops. It was an honor. Love our vets so much!!

PC: Hudson Valley HF

PC: Hudson Valley HF

For those new to Operation Meatball or unfamiliar with the way Honor Flight works, Super Saturdays are days when an unusually large number of Honor Flights arrive at the memorials in D.C. Though all Honor Flight days are magical in their own way, Super Saturdays are overwhelmingly awesome.

From 8:30 in the morning to around 4:30 in the afternoon, it's a constant barrage of veterans, guardians, and wheelchairs.  Each State brings their own personality, stories, and hilarity. Handshakes, hugs, greetings... before you know it, the day is over, and you are exhausted, but so, so happy.

The Armed Forces Day Super Saturday brought in a whopping 9 flights from around the country, equaling between 800 and 900 veterans! Below are just a few snippets from the day.


Enjoyed a nice chat with the sweet Mr. Bartram from Oregon. He was a Medic with the Marine Corps from 1951-1952, assigned to a Machine gun unit. Always an honor to meet our brave medics! 


This adorable swabby spent some time explaining to me how "The Sea Bees won the war!"


You never know who will turn up on a Super Saturday! Such a pleasure to meet General James Mattis, Secretary of Defense. Of course we had to talk about Iwo Jima.


When I met Mr. Hastings, he was wearing the Honor Flight Smile to the max. He told me how he was only on this trip thanks to a random woman who approached him in Walmart and said, "Have you ever heard of Honor Flight?" Shortly after he was signed up and on his flight, and loving every moment of it!



We managed to round up [most] of the Marines from Honor Flight Columbus because you know... it's the Marines. ❤


It's pretty great when you run into folks you know through Honor Flight...or their relatives! I met Mr. Miller's uncle "Moon" Miller in Normandy a few years ago!


Always a delight for the vets to have Senator Dole come out to the Memorial.


The Boys Scouts were a great addition to the day, handing out mini American Flags to the veterans.


And the best dressed award goes to... 

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"I've never forgotten them - I never will." / Memorial Day 2018


Each year people write extensively about the meaning behind Memorial Day. I've written a few posts in the past similarly... but this year I just want to share some brief moments from my first Memorial Day in DC. 

To be honest, I didn't plan on spending this solemn holiday in D.C., for no reason other than I had different plans. But before the day was half over, I wouldn't have traded a precious minute of it to be somewhere else.


For instance, I listened to a 14 year old Korean-American publicly thank the men who liberated his grandparents back in 1951, and pledge over $800 of his personal savings to the memorial that was in tribute of these liberators. He dedicated a flag to his hero, a WWII/Korean War Paratrooper who had lost both an arm and a leg fighting for that boy's country. Such articulate honor from a young man was completely inspiring. By the end of his speech (entitled "This I Believe"), I'm sure I wasn't the only one trying to keep back the tears.


At the Vietnam Wall, letters were left for passersby to read. Letters expressing all emotions. Heartbreak, anger, bitterness, forgiveness, love, and gratitude. One read, 


I graduated from high school in 1970. My brother (Daniel) was drafted in 1967. When I dated some of the men who had just received their draft cards, they told me they would "probably" die in the war... I tried to comfort them and told them I was very proud of them. 

I know some were killed, because they didn't return. A few of them came to my house and asked me what they should do - because they were weighing whether or not to go. I could only tell them to do as their knowledge told them what they felt was the right thing to do. 

I've never visited The Wall in Washington, D.C., but I am traveling to that area this September, and I won't be afraid if I see some names I recognize. These men died for me and also for all the people in America. They did not die in vain.

I've never forgotten them - I never will.

Ms. Frank (Daniel's sister)


Without getting too heady and philosophical, I truly believe there are seasons and holidays which act as a natural conduit for humans to interact with each other. Maybe we shouldn't need it, but they give us an excuse to talk to strangers and step out of our comfort zone without the usual "awkwardness."

On this day, something about the meaningful solemnity of it gave off a bit of this warmth and affability. Even an openness to share difficult stories with complete strangers. 

Throughout the afternoon, I found myself listening to heart-wrenching stories from veterans I'd only met minutes before, as they told me about war, of friends they'd lost, pointing to the names on the wall, or showing me their photographs.


Notes from May 29:

I met 173rd Airborne veteran, Samuel, at the Vietnam Wall yesterday. He had been in D.C. with his reunion the last week and decided to stay an extra day to visit the wall for the very first time.

As all Texans eventually meet up (he was from Austin and I from San Antonio), we got to talking. I asked him about the name his son and he had just pointed out, Charles Watters.

He spoke softly and thoughtfully as he told me that in the few weeks before Thanksgiving, 1967, his unit had had a fierce fight with the VC. The casualties on both sides were enormous, and over 143 paratroopers were killed. He made it out himself, but he never forgot those couple of weeks.

In years afterwards, every Thanksgiving as his family gathered together, before the meal started, he would remind his sons, "We must always be grateful to the 143 boys who didn't make it back."


A little while later, Samuel came up and showed me a picture. "This was my friend," he said, "I'm looking for his name down on that end. Everybody thought we looked just alike. He was a great guy. But he wasn't supposed to be killed. It wasn't supposed to happen." And he explained to me that one night in Vietnam, they'd heard noises coming from an area a little ways away. It was someone else's job to check it out, but his friend was too curious and had jumped up to see what it was. He was instantly hit.

"I tried to visit the Traveling Wall when it came to our area a couple of times..." he said. "But I just couldn't do it..."

Samuel is just one of many veterans I talked to at the Wall yesterday. Many of them with stories very similar to his.

Being with a veteran when he makes his first visit to the wall is very moving. It's a vulnerable time for them because all their barriers are suddenly taken away, and all they are left with are the raw feelings and emotions of the moment, of seeing so many thousands of names in stone, and among them their friend. But at the same time, it's beautiful to watch. To see the names remembered and the Veterans of this tragic war finding peace and healing.


On a somewhat lighter note, it was a thrill and an honor to meet Mr. Kyung Kim, one of the brave ROK (Republic of Korea) Marines who served with our guys in Korea. And you know what, whether you're an ROK Marine or a United States Marine, a Marine is a Marine!


Throughout the day, I kept running into these lovely fellows representing the Military Order of the Purple Heart. Angelo Wider (left) enlisted in the Army in 1964 and served with the 25th Infantry Division in Vietnam. He was nearly fatally wounded in 1966, but the bullet missed his vital organs, saving his life. He left the service in 1967.

Felix Garcia (right) of Texas is a three-time Purple Heart recipient. He served with the 1st Marine Division, and was wounded at Al Karmah and Fallujah. He's the Junior Vice Commander at the Military Order of the Purple Heart Association.

Click on the below photos for a full description


Memorial Day is always meaningful for me, even as I remember my great-great Uncle Israel Goldberg who died overseas in 1942. But this Memorial Day was especially so. The openness strangers and veterans felt sharing their personal stories with me left me greatly touched.

I also saw again and again that gratitude is a universal language. From a 14 year-old boy speaking to his hero, to the wrinkled hand of a visiting foreigner thanking one of our veterans. Gratitude is beautiful.

And finally, in the minds of many of the veterans who participated in the various wars and conflicts America has taken part in the last 70+ years, every day is Memorial Day. If that is the case, it's only appropriate to take at least one day out of 365 to remember the boys who are "forever young."

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A Special Sort of Crusty

Hanging out in the airport with Mr. bordeaux (centre) and his lifelong friend, wayne pricer.

“I’m going to push your wheelchair through the museum for you, Mr. B.” I announced.

“No, no, no, honey.” He protested. “You don’t need to do that.” 

“I’m happy to!” I exclaimed.

“No really. I’ll just be fine here.” He settled himself for the wait.

My friend’s response was typical. He was independent and would be the last person in the world to put someone out. 

We were both a part of a large group of WWII veterans and guardians who had traveled from Fort Worth, Texas to New Orleans, Louisiana to visit the National WWII Museum. It was most of the vets' first time, and after a swell evening the night before being serenaded by the trio at BB's Stage Door Canteen, everyone was excited to tour the museum for the day. 

just a "few" of the ww2s on our trip!

Unfortunately, stepping off an elevator the day before, Mr. B. had collided with one of the other vets and didn’t quite feel up to a strenuous day of walking. True to form, he would rather have spoiled his trip than have to depend upon someone else. 

But I was prepared for this. 

I walked around to the front of his wheelchair, “Mr. Bordeaux, do you seriously think you came all the way from Texas to New Orleans just to sit in a chair in the front of the museum all day?? I think not!!”

He attempted one last pathetic protest and then realized it was pointless. “Oh, okay.” He smiled. He was won over. 

Everyone you meet has a different impact on you. And what you take away from one friendship may be completely different from the next person.

I didn’t know Mr. Bordeaux as long as some folks, but I like to think that over the several years of our friendship, I was able to see a different side of Mr. B. than the one he regularly presented.

For those who didn’t know him so well, one might have put Richard Bordeaux down as a possibly cute old man, always good for a laugh, with a somewhat impossible amount of orneriness left over from years of being on his own.

In a way, that is true. Each extended trip to the hospital proved he was too tough to be overcome. And it’s true, his self deprecating jokes could be really cute ...

“How are you doing, Mr. B.?” 
“Fine… They said I need a lobotomy, but I doubt they’ll be able to find anything there.”

… But I also saw a side to him that (along with his adorable crustiness) was interesting and even brilliant. I would like to share that with you here - the Mr. Bordeaux I knew.

Until he got too sick, we would talk regularly on the phone. Oh the miles of conversation we would cover. Sometimes we’d compare notes on our Civil War relatives. His insight into a war, so far in our past, but still so hotly disputed, was clear headed, honest, and intelligent. Over the election year, his political commentary, though far from PC (Mr. Bordeaux and "politically correct" were just two things that never went together), was again very insightful and oftentimes hilarious.

His retention of information and knowledge on many, many subjects continually impressed me. 

One day, I was talking on the phone with him. 

“Mr. Bordeaux!” I exclaimed. “I finally got to see the Grand Canyon!” 

“Just a minute honey,” he said in his raspy Texas drawl. “Let me turn the TV down.”

He had one of my favorite smiles!

I smiled and waited on the other end of the phone. He refused to wear hearing aids, despite having lost most of his hearing as a Navy Gunner during the war.

“Now what was that?” He said picking up the phone again. 

“I finally got to see the Grand Canyon!” 

“Oh now, that’s fine. That’s just wonderful, honey,” he replied, “Did you get to see…” And he listed off a couple of places. We kept chatting about it, and he told me about the history and geology of the canyon. His descriptions were breathtaking. 

“I should be taking notes for next time,” I laughed. "When was the last time you went??”

“I’ve never been,” he said. “I’ve just read about it.”

“Well, if you ever decide you need a job,” I told him, “you should apply as a tour guide of the Canyon!”

He chuckled a bit.

A few years ago, I had told him about my brother hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. Had he heard of that before? Most certainly!! And he proceeded to tell me about this famous 2600 mile hiking trail. “How did you know about it?” I had to ask, amazed (I’d never heard of it before my brother announced to the family his intentions of making the hike). “Oh, reading somewhere,” was his reply.

The following year, I told him my brother was commercial fishing in Alaska. 

“Alaska!” He said, getting excited. “That’s one place I have wanted to visit my entire life.”

“Really?” I said. “Tell me about it. Why?” 

And he did. For the next ten or fifteen minutes, he went on to tell me about the gloriousness of “The Last Frontier.”

Again I asked in amazement, “Where did you learn all this? No! Don’t tell me…” I knew where this was going.

“I’ve read about it, watched a lot of documentaries… you know. Not much.”

“Goodness, Mr. Bordeaux!” I chuckled on the other end of the phone. Would there ever be a subject he didn’t know anything about?

Pushing my crusty sailor around the National WWII Museum that day, I saw yet another side to this interesting individual. 

“Where do you want to go?” I asked. 

“I don’t care. Wherever you want.” 

“Let’s go through the Normandy exhibit then. I know you were in the Pacific, so it might be interesting for you to see the other side.” 

I wheeled him through the many exhibits, chatting a bit, reading some of the displays, asking questions about the Navy crafts, and watching him in those moments where he was thoughtfully silent. 

explaining how the landing crafts work.

explaining how the landing crafts work.

We finally arrived at the Invasion of D-Day when he suddenly blurted out, “I lost my two best friends on D-Day.” I stopped. He had never talked about this before. 

Coming to the side of his chair, I knelt down, “Oh, I’m so sorry, Mr. Bordeaux. You were close with them?”

“One of them lived next door to me. The other one was a few miles away, but we were always together. When he died, his mother moved to the house next door. Her younger son had been killed by a street trolley, and it was just too much for her to lose another son. She never got over it.” 

As he reflected on these things, his eyes became moist, his raspy voice grew a little more raw. “I haven’t thought about them in over 30 years.” His voice trailed.

“Thank you for telling me.” I said taking his hand, trying not to tear up myself. This was one of those moments I knew I’d never forget.  

Last Memorial Day I was able to get him a photo of his two friends' graves. You can read more about it here

 - - - - 

But if I thought that was the last emotional moment of the day, I was wrong. 

During our tour of the Warbirds exhibit, we ran into an old friend of mine, Lt. Colonel Art Arceneaux, a Marine Air Corps Ace during the war.

The meeting of my two friends was another moment I will never forget. 

After the usual, “Where were you?” they realized they had both been in the same general area during the Battle of Okinawa. Except Col. Arceneaux was fighting the Kamikazes from the air, and Mr. Bordeaux was fighting them from the guns of his ship. 

"Remember how the Kamikazes swarmed at us like flies to honey?" said Mr. B. ”I admired you guys in the planes. I wouldn't have traded places.” 

“I felt sorry for you guys on the ships," responded the Colonel in his soft Cajun accent. ”I didn't want to be in your position." 

So handsome! He never lost the smile.

I stood there in awe listening to them swap battle stories. I knew Mr. Bordeaux had served in the Pacific and had experienced things he’d rather forget. But he didn’t talk about it much, even when I pushed him. Okinawa was his one big battle. Compared to other WW2 guys, his combat experience was limited. But who’s counting the battles? I’ve seen sometimes that the vets who were only in the rough for a short time didn’t have the chance to become battle hardened, and they are left raw with lasting memories that cannot be shaken for anything. 

A few hours earlier our group had watched the Museum’s 4D short documentary, “Beyond All Boundaries.” Despite being in good spirits before the show, when the kamikaze attacks came on the screen, Mr. B. couldn’t handle it. “Make it stop, make it stop.” He cried out. “Do you need me to take you out?” I asked. “No… No. I’m fine.” He said. But soon the sounds, the vibrations, and the visual imagery intensified. My hand was on the elbow of his chair. He grabbed it and held on. Tight. My eyes became a bit dewey.  

After the film, Mr. B. told me how he had watched a nearby ship go down in flames. The crew members jumped into the ocean on fire. There was nothing he could do but watch. 89-years old at that time, and that image haunted him still. 

Pulled back to the moment, I looked at Mr. Bordeaux and Mr. Arceneaux chatting away. These men had never crossed paths during the war, but yet they had fought side by side. 70+ years later, here they were swapping war stories. I was a merely a fly on the wall.

a special meeting between war veterans: dick bordeaux and Lt. colonel Art arceneaux.

Saying our goodbyes, both vets thanked the other for their protection during the battle. They would never meet again, but they would forever be friends.

I was grateful for this meeting with Colonel Arceneaux, for Mr. Bordeaux’s sake. There is something intangible to the looker-on, and so meaningful to the veteran that comes out of a conversation with someone “who was there.”

Over lunch in the American Sector Restaurant, we talked about the day and the museum. So much to take in and process. We talked about his family, goofy stories from the Navy, growing up, events that had hurt him as a child and ended up shaping his life.

In many ways, his story was similar to another friend of mine. Both of them had grown up in the school of extra hard knocks. Both their fathers had left home at an early age, and they were forced to raise themselves without that important figure in their life. “A boy needs his dad,” Mr. B. told me. “But I didn’t have mine.” 

lunch date at the museum!

The difference in my two friends came when one took the path of indifference to hardships and a perspective that life would not be allowed to run him down. Mr. B. did not choose that path. There were many things in his life he wanted to be or could have done… He knew that. But sometimes life just hit him too hard to get around it.

Having the two examples of my friends, such similar lives with such opposite outcomes, I was struck by the fact that here I had an opportunity to see into the future. Life throws an awful lotta curveballs at us, and how we respond to them may change the course of the rest of our life. Through the example of my other friend, I saw the blessings of what it would look like at 90+, having taken the high road of positivity at age 20. And for Mr. B., sadly, I saw the outcome of having taken the road of frustration and discouragement. It’s a hard lesson. 

But for all the somber moments of the day, Mr. Bordeaux still had his wonderful sense of humor. After we pushed the serious life matters out of the way, he was back to his old jokes and humor, including cracking a comment that made me hide my face behind the menu and caused the next table to look up in surprise. Yup, Mr. B. always had something tucked up his sleeve ready to pull out when you least expected. 

“Here, have my fries,” he said.

- - - -

When we landed back in Fort Worth, I looked to say goodbye to Mr. B. But he’d already gone. Calling him up the next day, I pretended to be mad, “Mr. Bordeaux, what did you mean by running off yesterday without a goodbye? After all I did pushing you around the WWII Museum!”

“Oh honey,” he said, “I’m sorry. I just hate goodbyes.”

I get that.

The story of our visit to the WWII Museum is just an excerpt from all the stories I have to tell from dear Mr. Bordeaux. An excerpt though it is, it nevertheless remains one of my favorite experiences with a WW2 veteran since starting Operation Meatball.

one of our impromptu visits after an event in fort worth. 

Yet, WW2 veteran though he was, my family’s friendship with him grew to be more than that. He became a regular fixture in our visits to Fort Worth and a treasured friend. Over the years, we accumulated many hilarious anecdotes from our time with him.

The first time Mother met Mr. Bordeaux, he asked her bluntly, “Why are you wearing BLUE toe polish?”

Sometimes I’d call him up and say, “I’m in town. Can I come over for a chat?” Forever worried that he would put us out, or embarrassed that his little flat wasn’t clean, he’d make some excuse. That is when I had to learn to say, “I’m in town. I’m coming over in 30 minutes.” Of course, he was happy about it, and we would talk for hours… “Come back soon.” He’d say. 

One afternoon, when he didn’t show up to a luncheon where he was a regular, I called him. “Where are you??”

"a quick hi and a hug"

“I’ve been waiting for the mechanic. My car has issues, and they were supposed to be here at 10am.”

“But it’s 2 o’clock!?” I said. 

“I know.”

“Can Faith and I come by and give you a quick hug?”

“Well now, honey, you don’t have to… But you can if you want.”

He was out by his car when Faith and I got there. Our “quick hi and hug” turned into a lengthy discussion on how to solve world problems (sailor style) and the best way to sleep during a Typhoon in the Pacific (educating!). Periodically, one of the folks living in his apartment complex would walk by with a trash bag for the dumpster, staring (not-so-politely) at the little party gathered around his old truck, chatting and laughing in the (Texas style) freezing weather.

Another time, it was his turn to remonstrate when I was out of town for a while and hadn’t called.

“I’ve been looking for you!” He said in his North Texas manner. “But I didn’t find you in any of the local pool halls or bars.”

I died laughing. “Goodness. Mr. Bordeaux. You must have been looking in the wrong pool halls then.” What else could I say?

jubilee and mr. bordeaux at the National wwii museum.

Surer than the sun setting, I could always count on Mr. B. to end his phone calls with, “Now you be safe, honey. And stay off the streets.” 

This last part always baffled me. “Why would I be on the streets??”

"Now, now, you just never know. Be safe now.” He would always answer.

“Well, all right then. I’ll try.” I would tell him.

ice-cream, okinawa, and architecture 

Another time, we were out for ice cream and ended up discussing Frank Lloyd Wright and Architecture (a passion of his) until the ice cream ran out. That was after someone had come up to thank him for his service, only to not be heard (remember, he was too independent to wear hearing aids). The fellow was a little awkward not knowing what to do… “It’s okay.” We told him, “He can’t hear you, try again.” We tugged Mr. Bordeaux’s sleeve, “Someone’s trying to talk to you.” I still don’t know if he ever heard what the guy was saying…


On birthdays, I’d always call him a day or two after. Why? Because of this conversation: 

“Hey, Mr. Bordeaux! Your birthday is coming up soon!”

“I don’t believe in birthdays. Anyways, life goes downhill after 21.”

“But I’ll be 21 in a couple of years!”

“Well, then… you know.”

“I’m going to send you a card on your birthday.”

“Now, now, now… don’t go doing that.”

“And I’m going to call you.”

“Now, now… Listen here, young lady, I told you I don’t believe in birthdays or holidays. They aren’t for me.”

Two days after his birthday: “Mr. Bordeaux! Happy birthday. You said not to call you on your birthday… and I’m not!”

- - - -

I wasn’t able to say “goodbye” to Mr. B. before he passed. I wondered if I would. But I never got the chance. However, thinking back to that conversation on the phone when he told me, “Oh honey, I’m sorry. I just hate goodbyes,” it’s probably okay. He hated goodbyes… and really, I do too. Anyway, he’ll always be my sailor who was a special sort of crusty.

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For Our Vietnam Veterans

Today is Vietnam Veterans Day, so we are re-sharing an article from a couple of years ago about a few particular Nam vets who left quite an impact on us, and taught us it's never to late to say Thank You.

A slight diversion from our normal topic... this year marks the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War. Putting aside complicated politics and issues that came out of the war, when our fellas came home they were treated like trash. Many of the vets we've talked to thought that they were going off to fight Communism and save the world, just like their predecessors the WWII veterans.

Coming home, then, only to be welcomed by being spit on, having things thrown at them, and called "Baby Killers," & "Murderers," was very demoralizing and crushed the spirits of many. One vet in particular, Mr. Adam, told us that he was treated so poorly after returning, that he retreated to the confines of his military career; rarely leaving the base, and almost never communicating with people outside his Army life. In the early 2000s, when there was a boost to show proper appreciation for the troops overseas, he felt very bitter. 

Last year when we went as guardians on Austin Honor Flight, we had the pleasure of traveling with many Vietnam Veterans. Before the trip was halfway done most of them were in tears at the gratitude they were being shown -for the first time. After all these years it didn't seem possible for them, but it was! At the end of the trip, we asked one of the vets, Mr. D'Amore what those two days had meant to him. He said two words, "Healing and closure." After all these years, there was finally healing and closure.

In our group was a set of friends (including two pairs of brothers) who were all born and raised in the little town of Granger. They did everything together, even went off to war together. Serving their time overseas, they eventually all came home -together. We like to think of them as the "Granger Boys".

Last year they decided to sign up for an Honor Flight. Gathering at one of the houses, they filled out the applications and mailed them in one envelope to Austin Honor Flight. If they were going to do this, they wanted to do it together. And they did.

Throughout the whole Honor Flight they were practically inseparable. Shedding tears of relief and joy, remembering their comrades, and receiving the welcome they never had. "There was no fanfare," they told us, "We just stood around. This is our welcome home. It's like having a baby, we feel that good about it... when you're baby's born you have tears. And you have tears when you go through that airport." All their lives they had done everything together, and now they had finally received their welcome home -together. Welcome home Granger Boys.

Don't forget these men, the Veterans of Vietnam. They fought in a messy, messy war; many of them coming home with great scars. It's an easy thing to say thank you. As Mr. Mike said, "Just a handshake is worth ten times a medal!"

Welcome Home Soldier

Last year we witnessed something very special and unique at the WW2 Memorial in DC. While waiting for the next HF to arrive, the daughter of the veteran pictured came up to us and asked if we would give her father a rose. Of course we were delighted to. After talking with them a few minutes we learned he had come to the memorial with his entire extended family for a very special reason: 

Master Sergeant James William Holt was a son, husband, brother, and father, all in one when he went Missing in Action during the Vietnam war in 1968. Over the years his family never knew what happened to him. His children grew up and had children of their own and life went on. Then one day his remain were recovered. We spoke with his widow briefly, and she was a lovely lady. It was very moving to hear this story. After all those years, she finally had closure and peace. Sergeant James Holt's family had now come from all across the country for a special burial service at Arlington National Cemetery, 47 years after his death. Welcome home soldier.

Korean War Armistice Day

63 years ago today, Armistice was declared and the Korean War came to an end. Our friend, Mr. Thomas, was sent over to Korea in 52' and spent a long six months on the front lines directing artillery fire. Triangle Hill, Old Baldy, and Pork Chop Hill are a few names he'll never forget.

We had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Thomas during our October Honor Flight. We spent many hours on that trip talking with him about Korea, the combat, the cold, and his favorite old-time radio programs. Mr. Thomas was the first Korean War vet we'd really had the chance to talk to at length. At one point he said, "You ask a lot of questions. And you've made me think about things I haven't thought of in 50 years... But that's all right." It was evident with Mr. Thomas that he loved his country, the men he served with, and was happy to fight if it would prevent communism in the world. At the Korean War Memorial in DC, he choked up looking at the life-size statues. "It's so real." He said. "They look so much like the guys I knew." It was a short war that many of us have forgotten. But for soldiers like Mr. Thomas, they'll always remember days like July 27, 1953 when peace was finally declared to war-torn Korean.

Happy Birthday National WWII Memorial

Yesterday was the 12th birthday of the National WWII Memorial in DC., and though we're a day late, we had to just wish it a belated happy birthday. Some of our fondest memories have taken place at this memorial where worlds come together for one purpose: honor and remembrance. It is here that in a space of time so short, we have met some of the most wonderful friends you could ever ask for. It is here that the walls of the memorial hold the echos of songs we have sung with gray-haired heroes. The pavement boasts tears that have dropped from our eyes at the loved ones gone forever but always in our hearts. And the wind rushes through it all whispering tales of bravery and honor, the like that is hard to find. Happy birthday dear WWII Memorial. May you continue to show gratitude and honor to those who so nobly served our country. 

A Gold Star Meant for Me

When you visit the National World War II Memorial in D.C., you will see a wall covered in gold stars. There are 4,048 stars on this wall; each representing 100 men who sacrificed their lives for us in WWII. Last year we met Mr. Lee (pictured) at this memorial. Mr. Lee doesn't like to talk about the war at all. He was part of the 11th Airborne and made four jumps in the Pacific, taking part in some of the fiercest battles. But he did tell us something that was beautiful, sad, and poignant. In a thoughtful voice he said, "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 memory of the moment when his buddy took a grenade for him is still as clear as when it happened 70 years ago.

"The Three Musketeers," "Squadron 95," and their grand little adventure in D.C., part 2

Liberty and Mr. Virden at the World War Two Memorial

Liberty and Mr. Virden at the World War Two Memorial


Our first stop: The World War Two Memorial. Though the Korean War Memorial gave it a close run for it’s money, the WWII Memorial will always be my favorite memorial because of it’s history, the significance, and the memories which we have there. Mr. Virden and Mr. Covill had never visited it before, and I think they enjoyed every minute of it, despite the fiercely cold blasts of wind that seemed to appear just for us.


We arrived early enough that morning to escape some of the crowds, but not before a school field trip surrounded some of our fellas, shaking hands, taking pictures, and thanking them. Jubilee and I took Mr. Covill to some of the places on the walls where it marked the locations he had served, the main one being Tinian Island. Though little known today, Tinian Island holds a significant part in WWII that changed the entire course of history. Mr. Covill, after gallivanting all over the world as an electrical engineer for the Air Force, would end up spending one year on Tinian, during which the war came to an end. 

Mr. Covill pointing to Tinian Island, where he was stationed for 1 year during the war. 

Liberty with Mr. Jeff Miller, cofounder of the Honor Flight program

Liberty with Mr. Jeff Miller, cofounder of the Honor Flight program

When the Enola Gay was on Tinian to be loaded with her precious cargo, Little Boy, the first Atomic bomb, he said, “I didn’t help load it, but I watched it and they had to open both bombay doors it was so large.” He laughed when I asked him if it was hard to sleep knowing such a bomb was just next door. “Of course not because we had no idea what it was!” But I bet it made the hair stand up on his neck when he learned about it afterwords. 

While we were at the memorial, Mr. Jeff Miller, the cofounder of the Honor Flight program came out and spoke with our veterans. It was a beautiful thing to see him talking with the vets. Over the years since Honor Flight first came about in 2004, Mr. Miller has seen his vision grow as thousands and thousands of WWII Veterans have taken trips to the WWII Memorial, making dreams come true and showing honor to a generation of men set apart from all others. It meant a lot to all of the veterans that he came out to speak with them personally, and many were in tears as they thanked him for his vision to see our veterans honored. 

It should be noted that one of the mottos of the trip was, “If you aren’t on the bus on time, you might find yourself on a bus with hoards of teenagers and school kids.” So after our allotted time, we hustled to the bus to head to the next stop: the Vietnam and Korean War memorials. These are stories in themselves. But since I am trying to stick to Mr. Covill and Mr. Virden right now, we’ll have to come back later. 

The Air Force Memorial was definitely one of the most memorable parts of the trip. We’d never been before, and though it is a magnificent piece of architecture, what made it so special was that it was dedicated to men like Mr. Virden and Mr. Covill, our flyboys. 

Liberty and Mr. Virden at the Air Force Memorial

Liberty and Mr. Virden at the Air Force Memorial

Wheelchairs were pretty much required considering the length of the day, so to keep Mr. Virden and Mr. Covill on their toes, every once in a while we’d swap out “wheelchair duty” and see how long it would take for them to notice. I took Mr. Virden and pushed him around, admiring the height of the memorial, chatting here and there about the Air Force, etc.

Mr. Virden at the Air Force Memorial

Mr. Virden at the Air Force Memorial

Up to this point, when we had asked Mr. Virden where he had served during the war, he was quite insistent that he'd stayed stateside flying transports. As the day went on, we managed to pull a little more out of him, learning that he had indeed flown transports, not just stateside, but to the Pacific regions too. This was something. What did he carry? We had to ask, of course. The answer: everything. Paratroopers on their training jumps, equipment, cannons, even live monkeys. After the war he stayed in for a total of 21 years, making a career of it.

As I pushed his wheelchair, he asked to get a closer look at one of the memorial walls. As he read it -a list of Air Force Combat and Expeditionary Operations during the Korean war- he bit his lip and said, "I flew those three up there." It was obvious there was more to it than just flying, so I asked him what he was transporting. "Supplies and ammunition in... and severely wounded out..." I learned then that every single day from June 1950 to January 1951, Mr. Virden would make the trip from Japan to Korea. Supplies in, wounded out. Every. Single. Day.

Mr. Covill at the Air Force Memorial

Mr. Covill at the Air Force Memorial

Mr. Virden never got near enough to the combat to experience it, though the sounds of battle were loud and clear, but he saw plenty of it in the faces and damaged bodies of the American boys he carried out. An almost never ending number that must have seemed hopeless at times because he never knew how many of them, some too young to shave, would survive. Though this conversation at the Air Force Memorial was in reality only a moment, it drove deeper the somber reality that war is a terrible, terrible thing, and you don't always have to be in the middle of the action to get a front row seat to its horror. 

Following the Air Force Memorial, we stopped briefly at the Iwo Jima Memorial - no doubt, one of the most beautiful monuments in D.C., a masterpiece of work and an unceasing reminder of American freedom.

The climax of the Honor Flight for most of the veterans was the Changing of the Guard at Arlington National Cemetery. 

Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown, Arlington

Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown, Arlington

This has been often talked and written about, and most people make a point to visit it, so I won’t go into the details here. Suffice it to say, it is a remarkable and moving event to watch, only made more so by the fact that we were surrounded by veterans, not just of our Honor Flight, but two other Honor Flights, equaling nearly 200 veterans. Just beautiful!

The last stop was a new memorial, the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial. This meant a lot to some of the fellows who have been carrying their injuries, internally and externally, for their entire life. Speaking to one of the veterans at this memorial, we learned that his son was the first U.S. casualty in Afghanistan. He was coming on this honor flight, not just for himself, but in memory of his beloved son. 

Mr. Virden and Mr. Covill at the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial

Mr. Virden and Mr. Covill at the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial

But as all good things, even the best, must come to an end...or at least take a pause, our wonderful trip was drawing to a close. After a delightful tour of D.C. (in which -as Mr. Virden pointed out- we must have passed the Pentagon a dozen times), we traveled back to the airport for our return journey.

Though ready to get home, I think we were all a bit somber at the thought of leaving our new dear friends. At the beginning of this brief trip to D.C., we were all strangers, gathered together from various parts of Austin and the surrounding cities. But by the time we arrived home (as cliche as it sounds), it truly felt like we were all family -the entire group. 

Dinner, a water cannon salute, the delightful plane ride home chatting with a few of the veterans about our favorite radio shows from the 40s and 50s, another water cannon salute in Austin, and then the de-boarding - We were almost home, but not yet. There was one more surprise waiting for the veterans of Austin Honor Flight #30. After everyone was off the plane, we lined up again and proceeded out of the terminal (by now pretty empty because of the hour). Waiting at the end of the terminal, by the front doors, was a crowd of family and friends ready to welcome these heroes home. Upon seeing the crowd a split second before they all bellowed out "Welcome Home," two or three of the Vietnam veterans walking behind us declared, "Oh no! Not again!" But their grinning faces said otherwise. 

"Squadron 95." A little tired and bleary-eyed, but very happy. Our last photo together before saying goodbye.

Whoever said, “It takes an army to move an army,” was not exaggerating. The team from Austin Honor Flight (as always), gave a magnificent weekend to the veterans of WWII, Korea, and Vietnam. The work they put into every detail was tremendous, but worth every bit to see the faces of the men they were honoring. 

 It was a long-time dream come true for Jubilee, Faith, and me to be Honor Flight Guardians, and we are so grateful for the opportunity that Austin Honor Flight gave us to participate in this special event. As we have said a hundred times (and will say another hundred), the experience of escorting these dear veterans to their memorials, and for the first time, is truly unlike any other. The friendships we made will hopefully continue on past the Honor Flight, and the memories will last forever. One warning however: Once you've got the Honor Flight bug, it is impossible to get out of your system. 

Thus ends the story of "The Three Musketeers, Squadron 95, and their grand little adventure in D.C."

Post script: The name the, "Three Musketeers" came from Mr. Virden. Despite growing up in a family with six sisters, we quite dumbfounded him at times by our antics, thus he bequeathed us this charming name. 

"The Three Musketeers," "Squadron 95," and their grand little adventure in D.C., part 1

The last few months we've been a bit thin on the blogging part of Operation Meatball, mainly due to an increased busyness with work and life; so for anyone who has stuck around this long, we're going to try and catch you up on a few of the things OM has been doing this fall. To start off, one of the highest points of the year was our first Honor Flight as guardians. 

Now, if you’re not already familiar with Honor Flight, you should definitely google it, or go back and read some of the previous things we’ve written on it, because the Honor Flight program is one of our favorite organizations out there. Seriously, it is top of the list. Over the last year and a half we have had the privilege of spending time at the WWII Memorial to greet especially large numbers of Honor Flights and this is an experience like none other.

But to date, none of us had yet had the opportunity to go as guardians with an Honor Flight, which we knew would be the creme de la creme. Then, through a remarkable providence (and quite out of the blue), the opportunity arose for Jubilee, Faith, and me to became official Honor Flight Guardians with Austin Honor Flight. We were given the date and told that the three of us were to be assigned to two WWII veterans, both 95 years of age. Well, you can imagine the excitement and anticipation this gave us. By the time we arrived at the airport on the travel day, we were quite busting at the seams.

(l-r) Faith, Mr.Covill (95), Liberty, Mr. Virden (95), and Jubilee. All set and ready to go!

(l-r) Faith, Mr.Covill (95), Liberty, Mr. Virden (95), and Jubilee. All set and ready to go!

When we thought we could hardly wait any longer, our veterans arrived and we were introduced to our two “dates” for the weekend: Mr. Virden and Mr. Covill. With some time to kill before boarding, we pummeled our new friends with five thousand questions. We learned quickly that they were both Air Force veterans, one an electrical engineer, the other a pilot. Well, with such similarities (not to mention years) Jube, Faith, and I immediately determined that we would have to adopt a nickname for our delightful little party of Texans. This would be forthcoming, but it was time to head out.

For the last flight of the season, Austin Honor Flight took a group of about 37 veterans: 7 WWII, 6 Korean War, and 24 Vietnam veterans. Added to that were the numerous guardians and staff of Austin Honor Flight, making quite a nice size group of wonderful individuals. 

Jubilee and Mr. Covill

One of the best parts about Honor Flight is the great lengths they go to “showing honor to whom honor is due.” Many of the veterans (WWII, Korean, and Vietnam alike), who traveled with us had never been properly thanked or shown the appreciation due them for the services they gave to their country. Because of this there were many scars that, though somewhat healed over time, still occasionally flared up and caused sores; whether it was guilt about comrades who never made it home for the WWII vets, horrible memories of the fierce fighting in Korea for an unacknowledged war, or bitterness felt by the Vietnam vets for the shameful way they were treated after returning home from a war that they didn’t fight of their own volition. However, this was just about to change, and boy did they have a surprise in for them!

As we made our way past security, we all lined up to head to the departure gate. Suddenly, the magnificent drones of the bagpipes announced to everyone, “let the party begin.” (p.s. for those who don’t love the bagpipes, I’m afraid you are missing out on a bit of heaven). Now, if you have ever had to walk from one end of an airport terminal to the other, believe me it is a long and tedious walk. But this day it wasn’t; for crowding every single inch of the terminal were hundreds and hundreds (maybe even a thousand) of clapping, cheering, crying, hurrahing, and more clapping people. Literally, not a single person was left out. The love shown to the veterans was unequaled.

When we got to the gate, there were a few more Honor Flight ceremonial formalities to go through, including the singing of the National Anthem. If there was anyone who made it through the parade of honor without shedding a tear -no longer. It would be safe to say that there was hardly a dry eye in our entire group of veterans. How can you resist a tear or two when you are surrounded by brothers in arms who are all devoted to their country, all singing her anthem so gloriously and with such passion! 

One of the Vietnam veterans later told me that the parade through the Austin Airport terminal was the highlight of the trip. Why? Because the physical and verbal abuses he had received from his fellow Americans after returning home from Vietnam were such that he wanted nothing to do with most people. In the last few years, when our soldiers returned from the Eastern fighting, he felt bitter and frustrated by the way they were received. It did not seem fair that they were welcomed home as heroes, and he still had to carry the shame of his war in Vietnam. But that was now changed. Walking down the terminal that day, he was greeted with probably the greatest expression of love and appreciation he had ever received, and it was from the people in his own hometown. The healing process had begun. 

Faith and Mr. Virden shortly before we departed the Austin Bergstrom International Airport

Faith and Mr. Virden shortly before we departed the Austin Bergstrom International Airport

If I were to go into every story from the Honor Flight, every person we met and talked with, it would take forever for me to write it up, and for you to read it. But hopefully, over time, I want to write up the stories in smaller, more chewable parts. Stories like, “The Granger Boys,” as we called them: a set of five friends from Vietnam who grew up together, served together, and would not go on the Honor Flight unless they could go together. Then stories like a sniper from the Battle of the Bulge, a special Korean War veteran, and oh, about 6 dozen more stories. 

Jubilee and Mr. Covill, about to board the Southwest Airlines flight. 

On arriving in D.C., the Honor Flight was greeted by more crowds and crowds of cheering people. Our veterans somehow managed to survive this, and as we gathered on the bus to go to the hotel, we were indeed a very merry group. Mr. Covill turned to me and said with great boyishness, “I’m so excited!” 

Liberty, Mr. Covill, and Jubilee

Dinner at the hotel was a great experience. The veterans were invited to stand up and share a story with us if they wished. Some did and some DID. I think excitement must loosen the tongue. There were more than a few moments of hilarity, but also a few near-tear jerker moments. One of the veterans had only shortly before learned that a close friend from the war in Vietnam, whom he had not seen in 40 years, was traveling on the same trip! Coincidences don’t happen, and the joy at this long lost friendship now found was very exciting to see.  

As the evening came to a close, our two dear veterans were in high spirits with great anticipation for the following day's events, but ready for a bit of rest (and so were we!).

Liberty, Mr. Virden, and Faith. TOO early in the morning! 

Liberty, Mr. Virden, and Faith. TOO early in the morning! 

In the morning, at breakfast (an early breakfast! This was on military time!), we announced to Mr. Virden and Mr. Covill that we had decided on a name for our little group. Considering their Air Force background, similar ages, and the size of our group, we had agreed that there was no better name than “Squadron 95.” Neither of them seemed to mind, so it stuck. For the rest of the trip whenever we had to go anywhere it was, “Let’s go, Squadron 95.” 

Read Part 2 here: The Three Musketeers," "Squadron 95," and their grand little adventure in D.C., part 2

An Unabashed Promotion of the Honor Flight Program

Some folks have asked us how we find ways to meet veterans, and though it is pretty broad, probably the best answer is Honor Flight. Honor Flight's mission is to bring veterans free of charge to their memorials in D.C. It is often times a life changing experience for these dear veterans, opening the door for them to speak about the war for the first time, bringing closure to the years of silent pain they endured as they wondered "Why me? Why did I make it out all right and so many didn't?" Through the HF program, we have had the most incredible opportunities for meeting the most wonderful people.

Last year, we went to the WWII Memorial in D.C. for a week to greet Honor Flights, the climax being a special Super Saturday when over 500 WWII veterans arrived at the Memorial on one day. For hours, busses of WWII veterans from all over the country arrived en masse. One from New York was hard to miss with their strong Yonkers accents and high energy. Another from Colorado came bringing a dignified excitement. Tennessee's veterans were country boys, with their deep southern accents. And if you had read the list of names from the Ohio flight, you would have known instantly that most of the veterans were first generation Americans. All ages (86-104), all backgrounds; such a diversity and such an experience! Some of the dear friends we made that day we would never have met had they not been brought together from all four corners of the U.S. through the wonderful people at Honor Flight. Each state has several hubs which send flights off at different times of the year.

For veteran and volunteer alike, it is truly a life-changing experience. If you can't be a guardian, at least come out to one of the HF "Welcome Home" celebrations. It is an awesome and emotional event; guaranteed you will not be the same!

70th Anniversary V-E Day in D.C.

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. 

Guest Post Madisson Solid: Honor Flight Weekend in Washington DC

Faith had the honor of singing "God Bless America" with the Honor Flight from her own home state -Texas.

My very good friend Madisson Solid flew out to D.C. to be with us for the weekend of Honor Flights. It was a real treat for us to have her with us. She is a lovely person to be around, and I can truly say we would not have accomplished half as much as we did without her up there to be with us.  She has very kindly written a guest blogpost for us which gives a great overview of the weekend. Enjoy! -Liberty

Honor Flight Weekend in Washington, D.C.

Madisson Solid

Going to Washington, D.C. on an Honor Flight is a once-in-a-lifetime event for a veteran - whether WWII, Korea, or Vietnam. Being given this opportunity means so much to these men, and it’s a small way we can show our gratitude by recognizing and thanking them for their service and sacrifice. 

This veteran Jubilee is greeting is wearing his original uniform from WWII.

On Thursday, it was raining and the interesting thing was to see how the rain made everything all the more sobering. As we handed each veteran a rose, we’d grasp their hand and say, “thank you.” 

Madisson shakes the hand of WWII veteran Bill Marx from Honor Flight Dallas/Fort Worth

We met dear Mr. Morrison (a Korean veteran), who talked with us and told us stories throughout his time at the memorial. Faith was able to sing him, which we could see on his face he throughly enjoyed.

Mr. Morrison walks and talks with us on his way to the bus. 

Something we noticed this day, and the days following, was that many veterans pushed their own wheelchairs into the memorial, insisting on walking in. That just tugs at one’s heartstrings. 

The contrast on Friday was amazing. It was a clear day full of sunshine. After welcoming the last bus of veterans for the day and waving goodbye, we went to Reagan International Airport to welcome the Austin, Texas Honor Flight who would be visiting the memorial the following morning.

One dear WWII veteran started crying after Faith said thank you and handed him a rose. He told us that on his way to D.C., he was so depressed about the road America has gone down, realizing we’re losing our freedoms and everything he and his friends fought and died for 70 years ago. But when he saw us, the next generation, caring about history and the men who fought for our freedoms, it brought tears to his eyes and he said it gave him a renewed hope in America.

Faith had the wonderful opportunity to go down the line of veterans singing their favorite songs while they waited for the bus to take them to their hotel. 

In preparation for Super Saturday, we purchased 46 dozen roses, and by the end of the day, we only had a few roses left. Can you imagine that many dear veterans in one place on one day? 

Saturday was so amazing; a day I will remember for the rest of my life. 580 veterans from WWII, Korea, and Vietnam were present at the memorial all throughout the day on Saturday. Wow. It’s so difficult to find the proper words to describe this day.

Handing them a rose, we would grasp their hand and say thank you. The impact of the roses was incredible - one would never think a simple flower could bring such joy and open the door so easily to wonderful conversation.

This kind man had brought a framed picture of himself and his friend from the war. 

It was so sweet to see the Austin veterans we had met the evening before at the airport, holding the roses we had given them the night before. 

Mr. Andy Bardagjy from Honor Flight: Austin, Texas. We were able to greet him at the airport, and then again at the memorial.  (photo credit: Tom Wince)

Virginia, being the cutie pie of the bunch, literally stole the show. The veterans adored her. She was so sweet and smiley to them, and I’m sure she received a special place in all their hearts. Unfortunately, we all can’t be cute little blonde seven-year olds! 

Virginia and Mr. Lyndon Benshoof

The last WWII veteran we met and talked to on this wonderfully full day was Mr. Cochran from Texas. In 1942 he joined the Navy and was a mechanic on the U.S.S. Puffer. He married his wife Bonnie in 1943 when she was 15 and he 19.

Mr. Cochran is pictured here in the wheelchair. His wife, Bonnie, passed away last November after 71 years of marriage. The sweet woman next to Mr. Cochran is 99 years old and very spunky!

They were married 71 years, until she passed away last November. Isn’t that so incredible? 71 years! We could tell he really missed her - he choked up when talking about her. Two of his grandsons accompanied him to DC. Such lovely people. My heart was so full as we left the memorial that evening, after welcoming, thanking, and hugging all those sweet, dear veterans. 

Washington state was the only flight on Sunday, and I’m so glad we were there to greet them. I can only say it was another wonderful, blessed day and we met dear Mr. McGuirk and his son. It was such a good way to end our time in D.C. I can’t imagine us having missed it.  

Mr. McGuirk tells Madisson goodbye at the bus. 

I cannot imagine how brave a person must be to be in harm’s way or dedicate one’s life to protect people he has never met. From the bottom of our hearts we thanked them for their courage, self-sacrifice, and bravery. We thanked them for their service to our country and for putting their lives at stake to protect the freedoms we hold so dearly. We thanked them for believing in the stars and stripes. America is eternally blessed for the presence of men like these who believe liberty is always worth fighting for.

These veterans (whether WWII, Korea, or Vietnam) didn’t fight to receive a thank you. They didn’t risk their lives for this monument in D.C. To be on an Honor Flight is an incredible opportunity and, not to mention, honor.

We met Mr. Cason at the memorial, and had the privilege of visiting him at his residence a few days later. 

These veterans would have never asked for an honor like this, but you can see on their faces; it means the world to them. I hope and pray that we were able to convey, albeit inadequately, the gratitude and love we have for each one of them. 

I’m so glad I went. It was so humbling, thrilling, sobering, and incredible all at the same time. The veterans are always on my mind, and I know they’ve left a lasting impression on my heart.


(above photo credit: Stephen R. Brown Photography. The amazing Washington photographer. )

Week of Honor Flights: Highlights from Flights Ohio, Ilionois, and Arizona

We are just a couple days in and we have met so many wonderful men at the WWII Memorial. The Honor Flight program has given a truly meaningful gift to these veterans by bringing them out to D.C. to see the memorial created for them. We have loved talking with them and finding out a little bit about their service and their life. Each one of these men, whether they are a WWII, Korea, or Vietnam veteran, has a unique and important story they are just waiting to be asked about.

At some point during Honor Flight that comes to the memorial, all the veterans line up for a picture. It is one of the most incredible picture experiences we have ever watched: to see so much living  history, pulled together for a brief moment in time before dispersing, never to meet them again. . .old men who were once strapping young boys with the world at their feet and a mission to save it. Now, they are brought to the memorial at the end of their life, grey-haired and in wheel chairs, but with a fighting spirit still in them having laid the world at the feet of the next generation.

During WWII, mothers who had a son in the war would hang a blue star in the window or on the door. Later if the son was killed, a gold star replaced the blue one.. There are over 4000 gold stars on the wall at the WWII memorial. Each star represents approximately 100 soldiers who died during the war. When the veterans come to the memorial, this wall is very important to them. 

Mr. Burch learned the bag pipes four years ago to quit smoking. One of his favorites was Danny Boy so Faith got to sing it to him!

Virginia has become the mascot for the veterans. 

Mr. Watling was stationed on a ship that was rather unusual compared to most Navy vessels. It was made of wood and approximately 132 feet long. He said "It was like a cork bobbing around in the water."

Mr. Ditton told us he was practically born in the saddle. He got his first horse when he was 6 years old and road it to and from school very day.

Mr. Ashley (Right) was a chemist's mate in the Pacific.  After making it on to Tarawa during the invasion he helped to put up the hospital there. Mr. Ashley is the first "medic" we have had the privilege to meet.

Mr. Robert Lake turned 18 the day the Japanese surrendered and was shortly after sent to relieve the fatigued, battle weary soldiers.  He showed us a newspaper clipping of his cousin who was killed in Korea.

Mr Vasen was stationed in Germany for almost a year. General Eisenhower passed in his limousine every day. Mr Vasen would salute each time. He never knew if "Ike" ever saw, but paid his respects nonetheless.

Honor Flights

We arrived in Washington DC last night. This week we are thrilled to be part of the group welcoming World War II veterans to D.C. The Honor Flights come in every week, carrying many WWII, Korea, and Vietnam veterans on a special trip to visit "their" Memorial in D.C.  We visited the memorial last night with a very special guide, John W. McCaskill, a National Park Service representative and World War II historian whom we met three years ago in Pearl Harbor. His passion for honor and history is simply infectious. He walked us around the beautifully lit memorial with zeal and enthusiasm, explaining every aspect: The eagles, the fountain, the emblems, the gold stars, the bas reliefs, and on and on.

This morning we joined a group of folks meeting the East Iowa Honor Flight coming in to DCA. What a beautiful experience! From there we went to the National World War Two Memorial and had a wonderful time there visiting with some very special people.

Over the next week we will be having more regular updates and posts. So stay tuned. If you would like to see more photos than we will be posting here, you can sign up in the form below (make sure to put your full name with your email to be added).