(click the link at the bottom / end of this post for 40 more beautiful, heartwarming photos)
Where do I begin? Well, anyone that knows my other career and life’s passion (that being music, writing, performing) – specifically those that have been able to catch my live concerts between 1992 through 2016 have seen the segment in the show dedicated to America, it’s heritage and history and most of all, The United States Military. This has always been a soft spot with me dating back to when I was a youngster, though I may not have been able to recognize it or put it into words at such an early age. But in retrospect, the heartfelt passion began way back then.
Skip ahead and enter present day. I learned of something called, “Honor Flight,” a few years back. Basically, they are a large, high class volunteer organization that puts together and executes these trips / flights to the World War II and other Memorials in Washington, D.C. As I’m told, the whole thing originated just after the construction & completion of the WW II Memorial. The plan was (and still is) to take as many WW II Veterans up to see the Memorial as a thank you & recognition for their service – a service which a lot of folks felt they never truly were given their just appreciation for.
Currently, Honor Flight also transports other Veterans (such as Korean Vets and Vietnam Vets) on the trips to D.C. as well. The tradition of welcoming the Veterans home as they returned from the trip(s) to Washington at the end of their respective day has grown in numbers over the last several years. I’ve always wanted to do my (small) part in welcoming those Veterans home at whatever airport they were arriving. Tonight, Saturday May 6th, 2017, I finally got my wish as I had a Saturday night off and had the honor and privilege of attending one of these Welcome Home events at Orlando International Airport.
The outpouring of love, affection and respect from everyone who came to welcome these guys and gals home goes beyond words of any language! My best ‘guesstimate’ is that there 300-350 people in attendance. Additionally, I noticed lots of folks who were just traveling or passing by stop and pay tribute as well. Most folks were all smiles and clapping etc… But even within that group of people, the tears I saw running down people’s’ faces was overwhelming. Almost too much for this old flag waiving, American Patriot. Ever try and shoot photos looking through the eye piece of a camera with your eyes ‘drooling’? Try it sometime. It’ll change your perspective on so many things in life 😉 .
Thanks to OIA, Jet Blue, the local TSA folks and of course the Honor Flight personnel, I got to witness and be a part of one of THEE most enjoyable, heartwarming, emotional events I’ve ever been a part of in my entire life!!!!!!! The pictures I was able to capture below do it all some justice. I tried to capture as much story & emotion as possible. But nothing will ever beat being there in person. And I’ll say right here, if you ever had a desire to do something – ANYTHING – to show your appreciation in honoring and thanking the people that gave you the freedoms you have here in this still great country, you should seriously think about coming out to one of these events. They happen pretty regularly all around the country, not just Orlando.
Please enjoy and take to heart the story of what these photographs are saying. The story contained within shows that even though there’s still of kinds of varying opinions on Government, the leaders & politicians in America, these people have found the way to rise above all that and make a positive statement recognizing what these great folks have done for The United States over decades of time. It’s a wonderful place to be and you’ll walk away feeling like a million bucks. And it really takes so little on your part when you measure it all up.
Thanks for stopping by and reading this. Hope I, and of course the folks in these pictures were able to tap into your emotions and maybe make you consider coming out to an Honor Flight event. Or at the very least, make you wanna’ go thank a Veteran.
To view about 40 additional photos from yours truly of this event, please click HERE.
Peace – and THANK YOU at all you Veterans I met Saturday night as well as every other Veteran for your services. Please believe and trust me when I say, “You’re not, nor will you ever be forgotten!”
See y’all at the next Honor Flight! – Mike T.