Thank You Veterans!

By Christy Wellman

In honor of Veteran’s Day, I would like to share the time I spent with my dad, Chuck Miller, a Vietnam Veteran, on the Honor Flight in 2018.

Thinking back to September 30, 2018, it was the start of a very long, yet quick, 22-hour trip, but an experience of a lifetime that I will forever cherish. For the start of our trip, my dad and I had to be at John Wood Community College at 1:00 am to check in and then board the charter bus that was taking us to St. Louis for our flight to Washington D.C. I do want to add before I get too far into my story that these Honor Flight trips are so well thought-out and planned. It is amazing how they make it happen!

Once we reached St. Louis for our flight around 4:00 am, it took some time to get our whole group through that process (security and boarding). But, like I said, they had the whole trip so organized that it would not take us long to get through anything on this trip. We finally made it to Baltimore, Maryland around 8:00 am their time. As soon as we landed, we were already being greeted by the Baltimore Fire Department with a salute. I honestly will not be able to tell you which part of the trip was the most emotional part, because there were many! I will say that when we were exiting the plane into the airport, I couldn’t believe the number of people that were there to greet our group of veterans. It was so moving to see all those people shaking their hands and thanking them for their service. From there, we boarded our charter bus that would be our ride for the remainder of our trip in D.C. May I also add that we had a police escort the whole time; I thought that was the coolest thing! The police officer who was escorting us to D.C. from Baltimore was literally making other cars pull over on the side of the road just so we could get through.

Once we made it to Washington D.C., we then had time to visit a few of the monuments within that area. Some of those were the Vietnam Wall, The Three Servicemen Statue, Korean War Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, and the Reflecting Pool. Again, while we had a couple of hours to visit these monuments, I was flabbergasted at the number of people, even kids who we did not know, who approached my dad to shake his hand and thank him for his service. I was glad I was able to get a lot of pictures in this area of my dad and I and some of his fellow veterans. Then it was time to board the bus again to make it to our next stop. Thank goodness we had an awesome bus driver (Kevin); not only was he a good driver, but very informative of the area and able to share a lot of history! During this time on the bus, we were able to drive by some of the other landmarks such as The White House, The Capitol, and the Washington Monument. We were then able to make a stop at the World War II Memorial, where we had some time to walk around and admire all the pretty fountains and pillars with each state printed on them. My dad and I got our picture taken at the Illinois pillar. While we were there, we got our group picture taken with all the veterans and guardians. Little did we know at the time that they were going to send that picture back to Quincy and have copies of it made for our whole group to have when we got back, which I thought was a great idea! Our last couple stops for memorials were the U.S. Marine Corps Memorial and the Air Force Memorial. Both were so neat to see, and very beautiful! Our final stop for the trip was Arlington Cemetery, where we were able to see the changing of the guard ceremony. Talk about being able to hear a pin drop during it. Wow!! I still can’t get over how beautiful that cemetery is.

It was time that our trip was coming to an end in Washington D.C. Our bus driver dropped us off at Reagan International Airport and we made our flight back to St. Louis. I think I was asleep that whole flight back. I was so worn out by that time! As we were making our trip back to Quincy, our chaperones from the Honor Flight were passing out all sorts of goodie bags and thank you letters to the veterans from their families and children from area schools that had written letters to them. They called this “Mail Call” just like it was for them back when they were in the Vietnam War. You could see all the tears from the veterans’ eyes as they were reading these letters. That was when I realized how badly they were treated when they came home from the Vietnam War and did not get the recognition then, like they were now on this trip.

We were nearing Quincy when the bus driver said she had to stop in New London to take a bathroom break…which was not true. We pulled into one of the gas stations to see over 100 motorcycles, where they greeted us to lead us home. I’m not crying, are you crying?? That was by far a tearjerker to see how many of them came out to show these veterans their appreciation. Along the highway back to Quincy, you would find people on the overpasses waving to welcome back the Honor Flight group. Such a touching drive back! Once we made it back to John Wood, that was where they had a nice welcome home ceremony for the veterans. They all were introduced by name, branch, and that they were a Vietnam veteran, and were showered with more gifts.

From there, our trip had come to an end (other than taking more pictures with other family members, of course). I was so glad that I got the chance to go with my dad on this trip. I feel that this is something every veteran should get a chance to experience in their lifetime if they can.

If I learned anything from this trip, it's that we should be so thankful for the freedom we have because of brave veterans like my dad. A sincere thank you to all those who have served this great country. We will forever be indebted to you!

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