Last night, I got to fly with some folks who have, and I have to tell you, there’s nothing like being on a plane full of heroes to put you in your place.
My flight from Baltimore to St. Louis was packed with dozens of World War II veterans, all part of an “Honor Flight” program designed to make sure as many of these heroes as possible get to see the World War II Memorial in Washington D.C. before they die.
It’s an endeavor that’s taken on an air of urgency in recent years. About 1,000 World War II veterans die every day, and it won’t be long before the Greatest Generation disappears completely.
But the Honor Flight folks are making great strides toward fulfilling their mission. Since the program’s inception in 2005, nearly 36,000 veterans have been flown free of charge to D.C. to see the World War II, Korean War Veterans and Vietnam Veterans memorials. And why? “Since America felt it was important to build a memorial to the service and the ultimate sacrifice of her veterans,” the program’s philosophy reads, “the Honor Flight Network believes it’s equally important that they actually get to visit and experience their memorial.”
The group of veterans on my plane, all of whom live in central Missouri, boarded a Southwest Airlines flight in St. Louis (Southwest is the official carrier of the Honor Flight Network) at 1 a.m. on May 24 and flew to D.C., where they saw the war memorials and the changing of the guard at Arlington National Cemetery before returning home on my flight later that same day.
As an added bonus, our flight to St. Louis also included, quite coincidentally, Vernice Armour, America’s first African-American female combat fighter pilot. She spent much of the flight meeting the veterans, having her photo taken with them, and thanking them for their service.
Watching the veterans file past me as they boarded the plane was almost a religious experience. After all, they fought evil, put their lives on the line and saved the world.
What have you done?
That’s the question I kept asking myself as I watched them board the plane. Then it hit me: I get to do what I do because they did what they did. We owe our way of life to these people.
What does all of this have to do with the worlds of accounting and finance? Maybe nothing. Maybe everything. I’ll let you decide. But I couldn’t let the experience go by without sharing it with you — especially with Memorial Day approaching.
If you’d like to find out more about the Honor Flight Network, visit www.HonorFlight.org.