Book Trailer The Noble Train

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Honor Flight

What did they die for? Why did they go and come back and lead lives of quiet desperation, wracked by wounds and psychological scars? And now at the end of their lives in their uniforms and in their wheelchairs with old age closing in like a silent ghost they smile and wave as we thank them one more time before they join the others. And we wave our flags in 2011 in the airport terminal while the Vets of sixty six years  before wave one last time.

The Honor Flight touches down and the water cannons crisscross the plane. We were told to line the baggage claim area and are there with hundreds of other people come to welcome grandpa or husbands back one last time. You mill around and talk with other people holding your small American flag just like the ones you had as a kid when you played swords with Johnny down the street and your parents told you never to do that with a flag.So like that kid you stand around and look at your watch. It is midnight and you are at Midway airport on the South Side of Chicago.

A big man whoops everyone up and screams about what our soldiers did for us. You keep waiting and the crowd is hot and growing tired. Their soldiers left the morning before and went to the War memorials in Washington on the Honor Flight, the brainchild of Tom Hanks and others who wanted the WWII vets to have their day before they all left this earth. And you wrote a letter to your Vet and they get them on a mail call run on the plane. And they have no idea what is waiting for them in the terminal.

The words come down they have landed and everyone is getting tense. It is a one shot deal to see the WWII soldiers return one last time and no one wants to miss it. Finally a band starts playing and the first old soldiers come down the aisle in wheelchairs. People cheer  and cry and wave their flags. The veterans hold up their hands as they get wheeled by Navy Servicemen and you can see they are stunned. They are at the end and some can barely hold up their hand.

And then come the walking veterans. They shake hands and you grab several old gnarled hands. Thank You Thank you say as they pass. And you see grandfathers and husbands mobbed by families with signs. THANK YOU THANK YOU. And then you see your person and get out there and he is shocked. And people are crying all around you. Well, sixty six years later and we still cant get over it, can we?  These men marched off and came back one last time.

And you wonder if you are worthy of their legacy. Our crappy politics and our shifting alliances. Our billionaires. Is that what this is all about, but then you know its not. They just keep coming home and people cheer and the servicemen who are there to salute them have tears in their eyes too.  And you know somewhere in the middle of have just seen the best of America.

Books by William Hazelgrove