Through a Veteran’s Eyes
Mr. Braun was one of the WWII Veterans on our first Honor Flight of the Fall season and has written an incredibly touching review of what he experienced on his journey with us.
WWII Honor Flight – 9/9/2014 thru 9/11/2014
By F. Rudi Braun
There were 16 million men & women in WWII. There are approximately 1,600,000 living Veterans with the average age being 92, and they are dying at rate of 500 a day.
The Journey Begins
This will be difficult to put into words as I am unable to portray the emotions involved.
We assembled at Sky Harbor at 0600 in Terminal 4 where we met the guardians and a number of military people who were there to help. We were given yellow T-shirts and name tags, and breakfast was served to everyone. We then gathered and continued on to security. There were a number of people clapping and cheering along the way. With boarding passes and ID in hand we were escorted thru security – which went very smoothly. We then proceeded to our gate. Wow, there were hundreds of people along the way cheering and clapping as we made our way to our gate which was a good distance down the terminal, wow, what a send off; it brought tears to one”s eyes.
We were given priority boarding and people wanted their pictures taken with us. After which the rest of the passengers boarded the plane. As I boarded there was an empty bulkhead seat on the aisle and the lady asked me to sit there. We departed at 8:45 a.m. and our lady pilot announced we would make up the time as we had a good tailwind. When we arrived in Baltimore 2 fire trucks were seen shooting water cannons over us. What an unbelievable reception we got as we deplaned in Baltimore – hundreds of cheering crowds (talk about emotions!) – as we made our way to the bus that took us to the Hilton hotel about 20 minutes away. We were assigned our rooms and guess what? I had a room all to myself! Everyone was tired after a fine dinner thanks to the Hilton, so we headed off to our rooms.
Day Two, Lots To Do!
Wednesday, 9/10/14, reveille was at 0700 to go down for a fine breakfast for everyone. After this, we boarded the bus at 8:30 to go to the WWII Memorial. This is an experience of a lifetime. Words cannot describe the feeling one has while inside the memorial: The many inscriptions, the wall of 4868 gold stars with each star representing 100 men & women who died in WWII. Next stops were the Vietnam and Korean War Memorials. The Vietnam Wall is 247 feet long with the inscription of the names of 58,267 who died and are missing – new names are added every May. The wall is a beautiful remembrance to all the deserving veterans of this war. The Korean Memorial is also a deserving memorial to those men and women who gave so much during this conflict. There is also a special memorial to the nurses who saved the lives of so many. We then were off to the Navy Memorial, another testament to the U.S. Navy.
Now we were off to the United States Capitol. Security was tight – there had been a security breach earlier in the day. It is hard to fathom the 1000s of people who work here, very impressive; the vast gallery and statues of past presidents and other notable figures of our nation past. Next it was on to the Iwo Jima Marine Memorial honoring those who fought and died in the taking of the critical islands of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. 70,000 took part in the invasion and we had 27,000 casualties. The bloodiest battle of the war, the island was secured on March 16, 1945. The next battle was for Okinawa in which 40,000 were wounded and more than 12,500 died. The total of Japanese troops and civilians killed were 225,000. This island was secured in June 1945. On August 6 the Enola Gay dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima which set the stage for the Japanese surrender – WE WERE GOING HOME!
Next was to see the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington Cemetery. This is a somber experience. The changing of the guard is so steeped in tradition. The ceremony takes approximately 15 minutes and one could hear a pin drop. The guards are changed every 30 minutes. He takes 21 steps, hesitates for 30 seconds, turns and waits 30 seconds, then takes 21 steps, then repeating this same routine. Unbelievable dedication, rain or shine, snow and cold, 24 hrs a day, 365 days a year. I also visited the grave of Audi Murphy (I did personally meet him in 1952). There are only 2 presidents buried in Arlington, Kennedy and Taft. We were then off for the lowering of the colors at Arlington, giving me a patriotic feeling.
We then saw the Air Force Memorial. This is a very beautiful structure which is on a hilltop overlooking the Pentagon with the side where the 9/11 plane hit
Next we were off to Ft. Myer for our evening meal and ceremony, after which it was back to the Hilton. It was 9 pm and everyone was ready for some rest. Thursday was up for a leisurely breakfast and to trade impressions with our fellow vets and guardians as we had until 1:15 p.m. before we took the bus from the Hilton to the airport. Once again security was a breeze and again hundreds of cheering people were there to see us off as we boarded our plane for Phoenix.
What a surprise when we had as we deplaned in Phoenix. Talk about a reception, you would have thought the Beatles had come to town! There were hundreds of people waving flags and thunderous cheers and clapping, TV stations, cameras and lights, and then a reception with a color honor guard, boy scouts, military, and more.
LET US NEVER FORGET OUR BRAVE WARRIORS PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE.