Honor Flight and public reception meant much to World War II veterans
By William Widdows
Editor’s note: We have received numerous letters from veterans thanking those who organized and participated in the latest Honor Flight to Washington, D.C. for World War II veterans. A couple of those letters are published on the facing page. Unfortunately, we don’t have room for all of the letters we’ve received. However, William Widdows’ response to the community, published here, sincerely expresses the sentiments offered by most of the veterans who have written letters.
I have been a recipient of so much kindness and care this month, I believe it is time to acknowledge all the good people who have bestowed upon me and my fellow World War II veterans the honors and praise we have received thanks to their tireless efforts and love. The Honor Flight back to Washington, D.C., and surrounding areas on Oct. 5 and Oct. 6, which they arranged for a large group of veterans, was one we will not soon forget.
We got to visit the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, watch the changing of the guard and related activity in Arlington National Cemetery and enjoyed a wonderful dinner and great hotel accommodations after a stop at the inspiring Iwo Jima memorial.
On Day Two, we got to spend a long time looking over the famous World War II Memorial at the foot of the Washington Monument, where thousands of pictures were taken and many memories were shared among us veterans. After a tour of the city, we visited the Lincoln Memorial and the Vietnam and Korean war memorials, and we enjoyed the area near the Reflecting Pool. The views were spectacular to say the least.
I find it hard to adequately express the appreciation due all the volunteers and others like my son, Jim, who served as guardians to each of the veterans on the trip. They made sure that our every need was taken care of, as we veterans were waited on hand and foot throughout the two days.
Another feature of the trip was mail call on our return flight. We all received a large pouch containing letters and notes from our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, as well as letters from school children and public officials. I can only speak for myself, by my eyes refused to stay dry as I read and reread the many precious comments, thoughts and wishes offered by those who are the reason for my continued existence.
Many, many thanks to all the unrelated people who took the time and made the sincere effort to recognize us veterans, with a special thanks to the school children, of whom we are so proud. Whoever came up with the idea of creating a mail call must know how important mail was to us during that period of our lives when we sometimes waited days, weeks and months, not knowing how our loved ones were doing back home. I defy anyone to adequately describe this feeling. It can’t be done.
Now we come to the reception we received after landing in Grand Junction. Again, it defies description. A special thanks is due the various units that both gave us an absolutely grand sendoff and return on the airplane. I do believe that there couldn’t have been very many people who were not at the airport from these units (police, sheriff, state patrol, fire department and others). It had to include many giving up their spare time to honor us. They are indeed special in our minds. We did not and do not take their efforts lightly. God bless each and every one of them. We are proud of them, too.
I can’t begin to relate my utter disbelief when I saw the vast number of people upon our return: the bands, the flags, the precious children — the atmosphere created by this grateful crowd. Whereas I would probably have been glad to just sit down, I found myself energized by this unexpected greeting and was ready to hug everyone and shake their hands. I loved and appreciated being with such a wonderful group of people. Thank you one and all. We are proud to be Americans in the greatest country on Earth.