The Honor Flight season kicked off to a cold but beautiful beginning with the long-awaited Cherry Blossoms in full bloom. I was able to make a few frames without the crowds. The Mall was in full swing with a cheerleaders, bands, and soccer players around the Washington Monument. Washington is magic in the Spring and the next few weeks are always remarkably beautiful.
Dave Nichols, George Kerestes, C. Patrick McCourt and Sid Wade were on hand to greet the hubs as they entered the Memorial. Tourists and a high school band joined the line greeting the veterans and the hubs arrived on time despite the heavy traffic. Seems everyone has worked out routes to avoid crowding the Memorials. "Sparky" has a great relationship with the Park Police Escorts who have become a part of the Honor Flight day and help manage traffic along Homeland Drive. The Rhode Island Fire Chiefs Honor Flight arrived about 10:30.
Diane Gresse and Jane Julian followed with a "Lone Eagle" (terminally ill) Flight with veterans from as far away as California and Mississippi. They all gather at the BWI Hilton and take three days to explore the city. It is amazing that amidst the confusion of transporting all these veterans, Honor Flight has taken the time to care for these veterans who otherwise would not have the opportunity to visit the Memorials.
Honor Flight Columbus with Carolyn Peppe Barger, Pete MacKenzie and Susan Barr rounded up their veterans at the Wall of Stars to honor a 97 year old veteran who received a flag as their oldest veteran. He proceeded to play his clarinet for the assembly. These amazing little scenes play out at the Memorial every day.
He was only outdone by the Ohio ballet team which were happily spelling Ohio using the Washington Memorial for the "I". You occasionally see Ohioans on Mall doing this but rarely with the grace displayed here.
Congratulations to Jerry Kyser of Honor Flight Twin Cities who equipped with a microphone shoehorned 80 veterans in front of the Atlantic Pavillion. His photographer stood on the wall leading up to the pavilion and had all the veterans turn their heads and salute for the picture. Well-done! I've been "herding cats" for many years and this may be my new favorite view!
To close out the day, we joined the Rhode Island Fire Chiefs for an early dinner at the Westin Hotel in Alexandria. They had a banquet for their veterans and everyone got a certificate and in a time-honored tradition, "mail call" was held and with that there are always tears. We were joined by the DCA Honor Flight's Patricia Harris. Their group does an amazing job scheduling bands, travelers and local Washingtonians at the airport. The Park Police escorts and bus drivers were at also at dinner and were recognized as part of the family. No man left behind!