On September 24, 2011, Quilts of Valor (QOV) Co-Chair Kathy Cochrane had the privilege of participating in the Honor Flight to Washington D.C. Eighty five veterans of WWII were flown, free of charge, each accompanied by a guardian like Kathy, to see their memorial. For many of these veterans, the logistics of a trip such as this would be impossible if not for Honor Flight. All arrangements are made and transportation is provided. Doctors, nurses, and paramedics accompany the flight and are present throughout the day to assist as needed and to ensure safety.
Kathy’s description of the experience follows: “It was one the most powerful experiences of my lifetime. To hear and see the gratitude of each elderly veteran in attendance; to see tears in their eyes in appreciation for this opportunity; to experience throngs of citizens who came out early in the morning or late at night to applaud, wave flags, shake hands and say "Thank You"... it was simply incredible. We were treated to Honor Guards at the airports, live bands playing patriotic music, escorts on motorcycles, a water tunnel by the Fire Department on departure and arrival at the West Palm Beach airport, and banners held by airport personnel on the tarmac. A strong handshake was given to each veteran by Marines at their barracks where lunch was served.”
Participants and guides visited Arlington National Ceremony and observed a changing of the guard ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns. We wandered leisurely at the World War II Memorial, taking photographs, reading the inscriptions, sighing. At the Iwo Jima Memorial we stood watching as these elderly men and women became lost in memories, some as fresh as if they occurred yesterday; some so painful that they have never shared with their families. Mostly, though, what I witnessed was pride and humility. "I was just doing my job" was heard from more than one of these members of "The Greatest Generation."
These proud, brave men were honored in so many ways. We boarded chartered planes without having to remove our shoes and belts, and bypassed the security gates. Congressmen and senators came out to greet the veterans. A reporter from the Palm Beach Post accompanied the flight. A videographer taped throughout the day and will produce a video to be presented to each veteran who attended. Personal letters were given to each veteran, written by school children and by politicians, thanking them for their service. At the end of a very long day, each of these veterans stood a little taller, and felt a bit more appreciated.”