We are remembering with great fondness Wheelchair Foundation President, David Behring’s trip-of-a-lifetime, the opportunity to join a group of volunteers and chaperone a Veteran on an Honor Flight to Washington, D. C. to see the memorials built in honor of their service and sacrifice in support of democracy.
~ by David Behring
Over the years the Wheelchair Foundation has furnished wheelchairs to Honor Flight Network chapters throughout the country. This non-profit organization’s mission is to provide all-expense-paid trips for World War II veterans back to Washington, D.C so that they can visit their memorial along with Arlington Cemetery and other memorials related to military service.
Every veteran is assigned a guardian to assist him or her on the trip. Since most of these veterans are at least 90 years old, the wheelchair makes it much easier to both rest and be pushed by the guardian. A “wheelchair brigade” of volunteers would file out first from the bus at each stop and set up the wheelchairs. It ran very efficiently and the veterans greatly appreciated the convenience. It was quite a sight to see our group of 26 veterans in red shirts and jackets in red wheelchairs against the background of the white WWII Memorial.
In September I had the honor and privilege to be a guardian on Bay Area Honor Flight #4 and accompany Frank Carli, a Navy Seabee who spent time at Pearl Harbor and Iwo Jima.
As an ardent student of WWII history, I loved meeting and talking to these men and women who helped save the world from tyranny. From the time we left San Francisco very, very early on a Thursday morning to our return on Saturday night, the patriotism and support from people was unbelievable.
Large crowds greeted us at the airports with flags, banners, and cheering. School kids would gather around the veterans and want their pictures taken. A police escort accompanied our bus during the entire trip.
One of the most poignant parts of our Honor Flight was V (for Victory) Mail Night when they received mail from their family members and friends as well as letters of gratitude from strangers such as students, Boy Scouts, and young veterans. One could not help but get emotional watching these veterans carefully read a dozen or so letters of appreciation. Many of the veterans re-read those letters on the flight home.
I am glad that we were able to play a small role in making the trip easier for these courageous and patriotic men and women who served our country so well 70 years ago. As Frank told me at the end of the trip, “I cannot begin to tell you how unbelievable and emotional this trip has been. Being with the guys, hearing the cheers, walking the memorials – the experience was far beyond anything I expected.”