I took up Brian Ziegler and Jody Babler McClain of Badger Honor Flight on their invitation to do a "ride along". Once at the airport, I had the great pleasure to see and photograph DCA Honor Flight Volunteers Lauren Burycka,Patricia Harris, Maria Temiquel, Cheryl Rickards, Nancy Griffith, ready to support the incoming Honor Flight Network hubs.
DCA Honor Flight is a dedicated and loving group of people who provide support both at the airport and as guides and volunteers the many incoming flights. Music, patriotism, cute kids...all the things a photographer needs to have an easy day in Paradise!
Every Honor Flight hub gets a water cannon salute upon arrival at Reagan, Dulles and BWI Airports. The waiting band and crowds of excited groups is contagious and I like to photograph the veterans as they come up the ramp. I believe that most of them are overwhelmed.
As we left the security area and headed to the buses, there was a long line of well-wishers with signs, handshakes and cheering to get our day going. A great way to get started! The buses were near the Western end of the terminal and the view of the Capitol and memorials is a great way to get oriented to the city.
Carol Coy (above left) retired from American Airlines and continues to organize and supervise Honor Flight arrivals and departures. Kerem Bilge is a Naval Officer who is also a long-time guide for many of the Honor Flights and it's always nice to have him aboard.
My job is to hang around and take pictures and while I am taking pictures, it is both inevitable and enjoyable (I hope) that we get to know each other. And so I met Cat and Margaret, mother and daughter, who for Mothers Day weekend got together and volunteered with Badger Honor Flight. That way they got to spend the holiday together productively. They both said that volunteering gave weight to the Holiday. Great Stuff!
As Badger Honor Flight is ably covered by photographer Danni Downing, I have little to do but wander around and fill in the blanks. And at my age, I always like to feel "close" to the medical team and they were gracious in allowing me to make a few images.
No matter what your condition, it seems Honor Flight is able to transport Veterans to see the Memorials. This Vet had been working for two years to get the paperwork for this trip and was determined to go despite the need for his leg to be straight out and elevated. No man left behind.
Anyway you can!Turns out this veteran didn't mention that his leg had to be straight out and elevated all day. No problem. He apparently spent two years getting the paperwork from the VA that he needed to go on this flight so leg or no, he was determined to go.
Several Honor Flights at one time made for a full crowd at the Changing of the Guard ceremony at Arlington Cemetery. With us was the Under Secretary of the VA and a one star woman general who was traveling anonymously and enjoying the day with her veteran. There is plenty of opportunity on these flights to get to know folks and there is a camaraderie that makes for an excellent time.
Veterans and visitors inspect the memorial to the Space Shuttle Challenger located behind the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Our next stop was the Lincoln/Vietnam/Korea trio and I headed over to Vietnam to make some images. There were several Honor Flights and one was doing a flag folding ceremony by the three soldiers statue near the Vietnam. The others were down by the wall visiting with fallen comrades and reviving memories by making etchings of the names inscribed in the stone.
Over at Korea, the nineteen figures made for a stark contrast with the wheelchair bound veterans who were visiting. I am always moved by these enormous and stark steel figures.
As the afternoon grew hotter, we finally arrived at the WWII Memorial.
9/11 MemorialCoincidentally, there were two family members of victims of the 9/11 attack at the Memorial while we were there. Brian presented Danni Downing with a beautiful campaign coin as a token of her six years of service to Badger.