On a crisp Saturday morning 60 veterans from southeastern Virginia came to the area to get their hero’s welcome. For the eighth year running, the Williamsburg-based nonprofit Honor Flight Triangle Virginia brought veterans to area war memorials and the National Museum of the .
Shortly after 9 a.m., four buses pulled up to the museum. The veterans got off the buses to the sounds of applause from a double line of Marines, veterans association members and families lined up side-by- side. The veterans, who had served in the Vietnam War, the Korean War and World War II, were escorted by an Honor Flight Triangle volunteer attired in a yellow jacket.
Applauding the veterans on the sidelines was Danny Perkins. His two children, Savannah and Lincoln, held signs reading “Thank you for your service.” Perkins said he brought his children to teach them about the veterans’ sacrifices for the country.
“I don’t want them to forget the history of WWII and Vietnam,” Perkins said, with Savannah interjecting, “I won’t forget.”
Representing the Blue Star Mothers’ Fredericksburg chapter, Margaret Niemann and Tammy Miller each held “Thank you” signs. The nonprofit supports mothers with children in active service. Miller said greeting the veterans on the Honor Flight tour is one of the best events her organization participates in. “If you don’t do it now, they might not be here to do it next year,” Miller said.
Established in 2008, the original Honor Flight mission was to get every WWII veteran to visit the WWII memorial in Washington, D.C. Director of Honor Flight Matthew Hartman explained that the WWII memorial opened 59 years after the war ended. By that time, 75 percent of the 16 million service members had already died. Hartman said bringing the veterans to the memorial is a way for Honor Flight to give them the welcome home they never received.
“I see elation and surprise on the veterans’ faces, especially when the kids thank them,” Hartman said. “It touches them in a very deep spot of the heart.”
The Honor Flight tour expanded to include Korean and Vietnam War veterans. The trip is free for the veterans through donations made to Honor Flight from individuals and businesses.
The veterans toured the ‘ museum, many for the first time.
“The museum is really fantastic. You could spend days in here,” said Albert D’Amico, a Virginia Beach resident who served in both the Korean and Vietnam wars.
Korean War Army veteran Howard Baskette said it was his first time at the museum. He said stepping off the bus to rows of people applauding was quite the welcome.
“For vets, it’s nice that they can see this,” Baskette said.
“I hear from some of the men, other than their wedding day or the day their children were born, this was the most important day of their life,” Hartman said.
When the veterans finished touring the museum, children’s hugs and thank you cards greeted them. Maureen Siegmund, a member of the faith-based organization American Heritage Girls helped make the cards to thank the veterans.
“We come as a family to honor anywhere we can,” Siegmund said.
After the museum, the veterans continued the tour at Arlington National Cemetery and the Korean War Veterans Memorial. Honor Flight conducts the tour once every six months. Still, Hartman stresses that some veterans could be missing their opportunity to go. On the last tour, there were 87 veterans. Saturday’s tour only saw 60.
“Please if you know a veteran, get an application in,” Hartman said. “It will be a day they’ll never forget.”
Applications for the Honor Flight tour are available online at honorflighthtva.org.
Maya Earls can be reached at Staffordnews@insidenova.com.