On Saturday, Gus Smith of Citrus Blossom was a guest of the Honor Flight Program. WWII veterans from all over the country were flown to Washington DC to see their WWII Memorial. Following is Gus’ account of the trip.
Sunday, June 10, 2012
Yesterday I went on the Honor Flight to Washington DC for WWII vets. I don’t know if you all know about it, but it was an experience I will never forget. I was picked up by my Guardian, one on one, at 6:15 am and arrived at the Ft. Myers Airport at 6:45 am. There must have been 75 people lined up to greet us at that early hour, applauding and thanking us for our service. There were also guys in every branch of service standing at attention, holding an American flag, all along the concourse. We were served a wonderful breakfast buffet and waited for 8:20, our departure time. No shoes off going through TSA and no body scans.
On arriving in DC, a fire truck was waiting on the tarmac and as we taxied up, they turned the water on and our plane got a bath. What a welcome! Inside there were hundreds of people lined up, clapping as we made our way off the plane. Most of us were in wheel chairs, as was advised, ushered along by our Guardian. My Guardian, Roger Brunswick, could not have been more caring or helpful toward this old guy. Thank you again, Roger and to all the Rotarians in Southwest Florida, our sponsors. I believe it was in Washington each veteran was given a quilted lap robe, done in red, white and blue squares. I guess they were made by many lovely Lady Rotarians.
The rest of the day was spent touring the World War II Memorial, the Korean Memorial, and the Iwo Jima, Mt. Suribachi, Marine Memorial. We were near the Vietnam Wall, but I had seen that several times before. We also saw the Air Force Memorial. I would also guess we spent a couple of hours sitting on the bus in traffic. What a busy town!
Next we went to Arlington National Cemetery and turned down Eisenhower Drive, and I looked up the incline where my son, Randy, is at rest. We saw the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and saw Audie Murphy’s headstone nearby. Some of these Memorial tours are out of sequence, but so be it. No one will ever know, but Roger, and he’ll never tell.
Then it was back to Reagan International Airport where we had our Arby’s box dinner as we had had at lunch. I think they were stored in the luggage storage under the bus. On entering the TSA area, we were all waved around the side, no screening. I guess we boarded the plane around 6:30 pm for our 6:55 departure time and arrived in Ft. Myers airport around 9:15 pm. Another greeting, bagpipes, too, and quite a few people with their “Thank you for your service”, high fives and a couple of smooches. On the flight home a mail call was held. I received a folder with twenty eight notes from, I would guess, 3rd or 4th graders, thanking me for my service and for their freedom. Roger got the car, and I guess it was around 10:00 pm when he dropped off at home this ¾ wiped out old guy. Thanks again, Roger. What a day!
I don’t consider myself a wimp, but I was teary eyed on more than one occasion. I certainly recommend this trip for all veterans of WWII.
Gustavus H. Smith, Jr