Photo by R. A. Makely Photographic Images
Yes…I know that it is Independence Day and not Veterans Day. Let me ask you this: would we be celebrating our independence if those veterans had not fought to make us free and keep us free? Independence Day is for everyone but a special group, our veterans, know – and we know – that their past efforts made it possible for the rest of us to continue to celebrate our independence.
My wife’s cousin, Kingsley Forbes, lives in Wausau, Wisconsin. He participates in the Wausau area Hub of the nationwide Honor Flight Network. Honor Flight Network is a non-profit organization created solely to honor America's veterans for all their sacrifices. They transport our veterans to Washington, D.C. to visit and reflect at their memorials. Top priority is given to the senior veterans – World War II survivors, along with those other veterans who may be terminally ill. The flights are free for the veterans.
King (that’s what he’s called) went on the flight as a Guardian. Guardians are essential to the success of the Honor Flight Network Program. Without these volunteers Honor Flight Network would not be able to carry out the dreams of so many veterans, enabling them to see the memorials built in their honor.
Typically during the trips, the veterans are divided into groups of eight and three guardians are assigned to each group. Even before the veterans arrive at the airport, the guardian's responsibilities begin with flight preparation and going over their packets of material. Once the veterans start to arrive, guardians will ensure boarding passes and IDs are available, distribute Honor Flight Network tee shirts, get the veterans through security and to the gate, assist in boarding, etc.
From the moment the veterans join the Honor Flight until they return to rejoin their loved ones in the evening, guardians will be asked to treat these heroes as if they are family and ensure that every veteran has a safe, memorable, and rewarding experience.
Guardians are volunteers and are expected to pay for their trip.
I talked to King before he went on his trip and he was truly excited about it. The Never Forgotten Honor Flight sent 87 World War II veterans from Wausau including the 93 year old vet, Dick Macken, shown below with King in front of the Korean War Memorial during the Honor Flight Network flight last October.
King carried military i.d. cards for his father and his late father-in-law so that they could symbolically make the trip, too.