I want to tell you of an experience of a lifetime that my father, Jack Hickman, and I had a couple of weekends ago.

My dad is a veteran of World War II. A couple of years ago he heard of a nonprofit organization called The Honor Flight Network that is taking as many WWII veterans as possible to see their memorial at no cost to the veterans.


I want to tell you of an experience of a lifetime that my father, Jack Hickman, and I had a couple of weekends ago.
My dad is a veteran of World War II. A couple of years ago he heard of a nonprofit organization called The Honor Flight Network that is taking as many WWII veterans as possible to see their memorial at no cost to the veterans. This organization contacted dad early in April and asked him if he would be able to take a weekend trip to Baltimore the weekend of May 1. Of course, he accepted. They told him that they required a guardian to accompany him. He selected me. We flew into Baltimore Friday morning and were met by a group of Honor Flight volunteers. They guided us through the airport, contacted the hotel and waited with us until the shuttle arrived. We were the first of the group to get there. As the day went on, more veterans began showing up. They came from all over the country. We enjoyed a meal together and began getting to know each other. At the end of the day the organizer, Chairman Jim McLaughlin, had a meeting with everyone explaining what would happen the next day. One of the things he kept saying was for the veterans to expect to be treated like rock stars. And they were.
Saturday began with a trip to Arlington National Cemetery and the viewing of The Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns. If the experience had ended there the trip would have been well worth it. But it was just beginning. From there we went to the WWII memorial. As the bus pulled up, we could hear clapping and cheering. Come to find out it was men, women and children cheering for the veterans. As the veterans walked down the sidewalk, people were on both sides shaking there hands and thanking them for what the veterans had done to keep us free. Also, former Sen. Bob Dole was there having his picture taken with each one. He is there almost every day to greet the veterans. The most moving of the memorial, in my opinion, was the Freedom Wall. There are 4,000 gold stars on this wall. Each gold star represents 100 Americans who died. That is 400,000 Americans who lost their lives in that war.
Following lunch, we proceeded to the Vietnam/Korean Memorial, and then on to the Iwo Jima statue. It was there that the veterans gathered so that the guardians could take group pictures. As the pictures were being taken, many people began gathering off to the side. When they were sure that the pictures were over, they swarmed the veterans to shake their hands. One lady even gave Dad a big hug. I saw a 9-or-10 year old girl come away crying after shaking their hands. It was so touching to see the emotion displayed for what these veterans had done. We continued on to the Navy and Air Force Memorials before the tour was done. That evening there was a banquet at the hotel and a gathering of us and another group from New York.
Sunday, as we gathered in the lobby of the hotel, you could tell that what started out as strangers Friday had jelled into a band of brothers. Each one not looking forward to their time to head to the airport and leaving the rest of the group.
About Honor Flight Network. They asked us to contact the media to let as many WWII veterans know about this experience as possible. They realize that there is a waiting list and they are trying to get as many veterans as possible to their memorial. On the average about 1,000 WWII veterans die each day. It is an enormous task that they have undertaken. They need our help to let veterans know what they are doing and also to help fund the trips as they are a nonprofit organization and receive no help from the government. As I said the veteran’s trip is absolutely paid for. The guardian’s donation is minimal for the three day experience. Soon they are going to start including Korean and Vietnam veterans, so their work is just starting.
Truly, if an organization needs to be mentioned for their good works, it has to be this one. The Honor Flight Network can be reached at www.honorflight.org or by phone at 937-521-2400.