On Wednesday, May 25th, I witnessed amazing kindness and beauty in the Baltimore airport.
I traveled through Baltimore last week on my way to Cleveland for a Costume Society of America conference. As I departed from my plane and into the Southwest terminal, there was an announcement over the loudspeaker that in ten minutes, an Honor Flight of veterans would be arriving at a nearby gate. There was an invitation to stand near the gate to welcome and honor the veterans as they came into the terminal. There was to be about 75 or so vets from Vietnam, Korean War, and one veteran from World War II. I found my way to the gate for my next flight and saw it was next to the arriving Honor Flight gate.
Have you heard about Honor Flights? I have a vague recollection of seeing a news report about this program, where volunteers come together to bring veterans to Washington, D.C. to visit the memorials of their respective wars. It’s a way to not only celebrate their service and sacrifice, but also to bring some closure to the many vets who still struggle with the hardships of going through a war.
This particular Honor Flight was from Central Missouri. At the gate, about a dozen active military stood at attention lining the aisle from the gate door. There was an Honor Flight Ground Volunteer passing out American flags to random people sitting in the gate area, and slowly people started to stand around and wait for the flight to empty out. There was an announcement that the non-veteran fliers would deplane first. As the crowd grew, people stopped to ask what was going on, though it was clear from the military that people knew it was something.
When the vets started coming off the plane, people took out their cellphones and took photos and videos ( of course, I never remember that I can do this now with a smartphone so no documentation from me, though I like to think I remember it better because I was fully in the moment observing it). They all wore Honor Flight t-shirts with the name of the war they served in on them, many with hats too. Every single vet shook the hand of every military personnel in uniform, both thanking each other for their service. They were mostly men, some in wheelchairs and using walkers, many helped along by the Honor Flight volunteers who accompany the trip. The group of people clapping was over 100 and extended beyond the gate area, down the terminal to where the Honor Flight group gathered after. There was a group of Boy Scouts and young students who gave them all high 5s. I think it’s fantastic of Southwest that they made sure these heroes were given an amazing welcome to their stay in the DC Area.
Many of the vets were overcome by the support and had tears in their eyes. It was truly one of the most amazing things I have witnessed. In a place like an airport terminal where people are so determined and focused on themselves, the time, and getting to where they need to be, hundreds of people stopped in their tracks to honor these men. It was truly a reminder of the greatness that can exist in the world.
The Honor Flight Network relies on donations to make these flights and trips possible, and after witnessing the program in person, I know I’ll be adding them to my annual donation list.