Super Saturdays at the WWII Memorial are wonderful events as they connect the DC and world tourist community with the heartbeat of America. The WWII Memorial is the most popular (4.5 to 5 million visitors last year) Memorial in Washington, DC! To make it more popular, Friends of the WWII Memorial, Honor Flight DCA, Eastern Shore Re-Enactors, and Gotta Swing have stepped up the pace of their activities making an Honor Flight Network visit to the Memorial really memorable! I try to arrive on these Super Saturdays in time to to inspect the area around the Memorial before buses start rolling in. As the author of DC PHOTO BOOK, and WWII MEMORIAL, I am always looking for photographs that will enrich the next edition.
Over on Homeland Drive, Dave Nichols, a board member of Honor Flight, is as always getting ready to direct buses and keep the general mayhem in line. Jeff Miller,do-founder of Honor Flight, came up from Hendersonville, NC to help with the seeming chaos that occurs when fifty buses arrive. Dave has also managed an excellent relationship with the various police escort services and so traffic is manageable...more or less.
The "usual suspects begin to gather. Eastern Shore, Honor Flight DCA and Gotta Swing members gear up for the day. And it seems calm for a moment and then...
...the party begins with Ralph Brignac and riders leading the first group from San Diego.
Needing no prompting and arriving early, Honor Flight San Diego sets up their photograph with Dave Smith, Jeff Hall and I organizing and taking the picture. They have their "well-traveled" flag with them which sets them apart in the large group photograph. Indiana produce sand brings posters of when the veterans were younger and they take the pictures with the posters It's a bit time-consuming but certainly worth it for the visuals.
And just about 10:30, the "hardest working" man in Wshington, Senator Bob Dole shows up to greet the Veterans as they enter the Memorial. He is legendary for his persistence and has been doing four hour stretches these past couple of weeks. He looks great and you can tell that he loves sitting in the sun and chatting! Quite a treat for all.
About this time, there are groups milling about everywhere and I feel like I am swimming in photographs!
I stumble across Honor Flight Tallahassee and give them a hand moving 190 people from an over-crowded area to my favorite "center" position. It worked out fine and one of the "Guild of Tour Guides" was kind enough to move his group out of the way so we could accomplish the picture. The day is amazing.
The buses at this point are so numerous that Honor Flight Network buses are unloading on 17th Street and so I walk up to find Allen Bergeron of Honor Flight Austin getting ready to take his group photo and we have a chance to chat....and get that picture taken care of. I think my HERDING CATS essay is working and I am happy to see all of these photos being taken. This should all be remembered as the best of us.
When the Memorial first opened, music wasn't allowed and dancing unheard of and even sacrilegious! So I am pleased that the Gotta Swing crowd has changed the environment and vets can look forward to a 3D "MULTI MEDIA" kiss from the Gotta Girls! It's kind of interesting that Washington, DC media is just beginning to recognize the Memorial and begin to delve into its unique character. Moe interesting is the fact that DC natives have grown used to seeing busloads of Honor Flights speeding along with police escorts!
Throughout the day, a variety of Drill Teams form up, ceremonies happen, and it's a colorful and photogenic event.
with the Queen's Guard topping of the day with a well coordinated "practice" around the Memorial for the VE Day event. They looked and sounded great.
The Honor Flight Network is growing daily and the trend is to taking Korean War and Vietnam Veterans. However, hubs like Chicago are actively launching aadvertising campaigns to find the remaining veterans who have not yet seen their Memorial. In Chicago, Mary Pettinato estimates some fifteen to twenty thousand WWII veterans who are unaware of or who have not applied for a trip. And this will be the subject of a future post....Have a GREAT WEEKEND.
There's a Super Saturday scheduled this Memorial Day Weekend.... It should be a doozy!
David Luria of Washington Photo Safaris is scheduling in Honor Flight Saturdays as part of his classes and so more great publicity! He is also donating money to the flights that he photographs.