This past week, I got to take a vacation to watch the Brewers play baseball in Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C. It was an awesome experience with a great friend, but what might stick with me the most is what happened at the airport as I was waiting to head back to Milwaukee.
As I was sitting in the terminal at Reagan International, a plane landed and men in green polo shirts began to wheel men in yellow jackets up the ramp. It quickly became clear to me and the other people in the terminal that these were veterans, judging from the hats that some of them wore and the verbiage on their clothing. I remember hearing about Freedom Honor Flights, and knew this had to be something similar. One by one, these veterans emerged into the terminal either in a wheelchair or with the aid of a walker. One by one, each veteran got a standing ovation from the other civilians waiting to board their planes.
I was extremely close to the doorway that the veterans were emerging from so I got an excellent view of the emotion that overwhelmed these gentlemen as they were greeted with an applause unexpected to them. Some came out beaming with smiles, some began to well up, while others remained stoic and filled with pride. But you can tell that each of the veterans were appreciative of the appreciation they were being shown.
This went on for the better part of a quarter hour, as 15 to 20 veterans were brought out. They were met with handshakes and proud looks and a chorus of thank yous, and it made me proud to be an American. And this was just at the terminal! I can't even begin to imagine what being with these veterans would be like as they head to the World War II memorial, much less what they'd be feeling when they see the monument erected in their honor.
I didn't take any pictures or get to talk to any of the veterans personally, but these men had an aura of well-deserved respect about them. I was welling up myself, seeing the veterans that were missing limbs or the ones overcome with emotion. It was truly a humbling experience and one I will not soon forget. It reminds me that we need to thank those that have defended, are defending, and will continue to defend this great country each and every day. Thank you veterans.