Indy Honor Flight veterans left the Indianapolis International Airport on a Saturday morning, April 23rd, for Washington, D.C., on two different flights. Honor Flight is a non-profit organization that takes World War II veterans, Korean War veterans, or any veteran who has a terminal illness to Washington, D.C. for a day, to visit the World War II Memorial and other national memorials.
That evening, my husband and I went to the Indianapolis International Airport to welcome back home the two arriving Honor Flights. The airport terminal was mostly empty. Someone was setting up flags.
We found out the real reception for the veterans was at Plainfield High School. Previously, when families and friends had come to the Indianapolis airport to greet the veterans, the airport staff said there were too many people there, the attendance surpassed fire code regulations. But, the Honor Flight volunteers encouraged the two of us to stay and greet the veterans.
We heard from an Honor Flight volunteer the veterans of the first flight had landed, and were coming into the airport terminal. The veterans of World War II are now in their late 80s or in their 90s. Some came pushed in wheelchairs by Honor Flight guardians, some came in with a spring in their step.
My husband and I cheered, waved small flags we had brought along, and shook the hand of every veteran arriving. We were able to talk with these veterans from Indiana who had been at Iwo Jima, and D Day. Their stories are incredible. Soon, a crowd started gathering, applauding, and reaching forward to shake hands with the veterans. Everyone was thanking the veterans for their service.
Some of the veterans had tears in their eyes, and thanked us so much for coming. Some wanted to be hugged, or to talk. Some said they never had a real welcome home from the war. They just came home and went back to work or school. So, Honor Flight was making up for something they had never received.
After all the veterans had arrived from the first flight, no one in the crowd wanted to leave. Unless they had to catch a flight, everyone decided to wait for the second flight to arrive. The veterans of the second flight were greeted by an enthusiastic crowd. We then went on the Plainfield High School to see the official reception. The reception was done beautifully, with music, official introductions of the veterans, and poster-sized photos of the veterans when they joined the service. The crowd there was so loud the floor of the auditorium shook, and all of the voices cheering together sounded like thunder.
But my favorite part of the evening was talking one-on-one with the veterans. There is something special about the Greatest Generation. I can’t quite put my finger on what it is, but there’s a toughness there. Granite would be soft compared to these vets, and yet they are so modest, just coming back to the U.S. and building the country, just doing what needs to be done.