The Washington Metro area has stepped up to the plate for Honor Flight. DCA HONOR FLIGHT VOLUNTEERS are the heart of the Honor Flight operation as they have turned every landing and departure into a festive and welcoming occasion. There are three airport organizations--Honor Flight DCA, Honor Flight Dulles and Honor Flight BWI which get the bands, post the schedules, make the signs, and keep track of the hundreds of incoming and outgoing flights. I happened to be there both at the busy Terminal A on a Saturday and for a more subdued but equally gratifying hub arrival at Terminal C, the original DCA.
Fifty percent of the 132 Honor Flights come in through Reagan and are greeted by bands, scouts, cheerleaders, relatives and passengers from other flight who join the festivities. This is all coordinated between three terminals (arrivals and departures), airlines, charter companies and the TSA. They manage to get several hundred persons on an almost daily basis through security to greet the Veterans at the gate.
Like everything else in Honor Flight, the group just evolved with no approvals asked or granted. They somehow manage to get TSA to cooperate with Honor Flight and so get bands, instruments, cheerleaders. mimes, signs...all the stuff of TSA nightmare...through security and out to the gate. To my astonishment, there was a paper work problem yesterday so a TSA agent actually escorted five of us out to the gate and waited until the veterans were in to escort us back. I've been traveling a long time and never thought I'd see cooperation from TSA. Honor Flight has a lot of fans and more of them were outside the airport as we made our way to the buses.
Outside the terminal, security guards greeted the Veterans and there were announcements that an Honor Flight had landed on all the terminal speakers so travelers could gather to greet the veterans at the gate. Our little group of ten people grew to a hundred in a few minutes.
Within DCA, there is another group of volunteers who ride along with the hubs and act as Tour Guides. Others take a day and ride along with the hub as a guardian. Doesn't sound glamorous but it will change your day and your outlook. And you will make an impact that reverberates throughout society.
The interesting thing is that when asked how all this happened, Dave Nichols, Chairman of Honor Flight said he had no idea. And as a witness over the past thirteen years, I've watched people come together, build organizations and websites, share information and several hundred volunteers engaged and working with no organization or meeting. Cool!