Latest Honor Flight Says 'Thank You' to WWII Vets
MILWAUKEE - My grandfather, Robert Milbrath from Crivitz, is a veteran, an Air Force tailgunner who served in the Pacific Ocean during World War II.
I joined him and my mom, Debbie Anderson, on the Stars and Stripes Honor Flight around Veterans Day 2010. She was his guardian.
To see these vets with pace makers and wheel chairs get through security was a trip, but eventually we were at the gate and somehow that made it OK to let go.
In the moments before we left, a chorus of the national anthem broke out.
By the end there wasn't a dry eye in the place, but there was a focus on what we were about to do and see.
We were escorted to the 747 by volunteers who thanked the vets, and when we got there, a new chorus of local cheerleaders, Cub Scouts and school kids greeted everyone as an ant maze of well-choreographed chaos ensued.
Every vet was ushered to a waiting bus to head to the memorial.
Eight buses were loaded and ready.
The first thing you notice is a center water feature and pool, and huge arching concrete structures for each front of the war engraved with Pacific or Atlantic.
As we walked into the bowl like design of the memorial we saw 56 pillar, one for each state and territory at the time, and Washington, D.C.
After the initial moments to take it all in, our vets wandered and remembered their stories and those who weren't able to make the trip.
And then, a group shot, a line of all of our veteran saluting with the memorial in the background.
With the World War II Memorial in their rear view mirror our vets left Washington, D.C., but there was one surprise, and one huge homecoming to close their day.
As soon as our flight home leveled off, the surprise started.
Our vets were literally overcome with emotions as they opened envelope after envelope of thank you's for their service.
Before we knew it we were back in Milwaukee and off the plane, welcomed home by close to 7,000 people.
After what seemed like forever, my grandfather and mom made it to our waiting crew.
They came with heads cut out of my grandfather, signs and flags.
Finally, everyone got to say what should have been said decades ago: "Thank you."