LINTHICUM, Md. (CNS) -- As the
orange glow of sunrise breached the horizon at Baltimore-Washington
International Thurgood Marshall Airport, waiting travelers watched a Southwest
Airlines jet taxi beneath a water cannon salute from the airport's fire
"Good citizens of Maryland,
travelers from afar," announced Fred Taylor, a member of St. Mark Parish in Catonsville
and the city of Annapolis town crier. "I bring news of great importance! Now
arriving in the airport terminal: Honor Flight Cleveland, carrying veterans from
World War II, Korea and Vietnam!"
Well-wishers, volunteers and
active military personnel cheered, waved flags and held thank-you signs. Many
in a crowd that numbered hundreds deep reached out to shake the hands of
beaming military veterans as they came off the airplane from Ohio Oct. 21.
The flight's arrival was the
first of seven scheduled for "Super Saturday," a day when four or more flights
carrying veterans travel to the region for a day visit to Washington.
Honor Flight Network is a nonprofit
organization whose mission is to sponsor and coordinate trips for aging
veterans to see the monuments built in memory of their dedication and
Charles R. Cole, a Purple Heart
recipient, was overcome with emotion as his son, David Cole, rolled him in a
wheelchair past the cheering crowd.
"My dad was shot five times, and
now he has five kids," said David Cole, his voice cracking.
The trip was vitally important
to Robert Dunn Jr. The Vietnam War veteran was recently diagnosed with terminal
cancer, and planned to make what would most likely be a final visit to see the
grave of his father, Robert Dunn Sr., at Arlington National Cemetery.
David Branstetter, a Navy
special operations sniper and multiple Bronze Star recipient who served in
Vietnam, wore his green military utilities complete with a beret, combat boots
and numerous ribbons, pins and patches spanning his 30-year career from 1961 to
Conts Booth served with the Navy
Seabees at the Battle of the Coral Sea in the Pacific Theater during the Second
World War. His grandson, Scott Mills, said his grandfather was making his first
plane ride at age 101.
For veterans who traveled
alone, Naval Academy midshipmen acted as their companions.
"You never know what they've
gone through until you hear their stories," said Naval Academy junior Evanne
Gillert, one of the companions.
Gillert remembered a Korean War
veteran she accompanied last year to Washington who cried when he found his
friend's name on the Korean memorial.
Carrie Carter, a member of St.
William of York Parish in Baltimore, volunteers with the ground crew. She also
volunteers with the United Service Organizations, or USO, welcoming home
military personnel from Iraq, Afghanistan and other tours of duty.
Some 200 Honor Flights arrive at
BWI between March and November, Carter said, with a break in the summer to
avoid the intense heat.
"It makes me smile for the rest
of my day no matter how bad it's going," she said of her service. "This is my
Carter was inspired to be a
ground crew volunteer because of her former husband's experience in Vietnam.
"We have a lot of bad memories,"
Carter said, as she talked about how the aftermath of war took a toll on her
marriage. It's her objective to make sure all veterans feel welcome.
Taylor, the town crier who adds
his talents to the arrival ceremonies, recalled an Honor Flight a few weeks before
in which he met 91-year-old Marine veteran Judd Lebowitz, who served with the
4th Division, 23rd Infantry, F Company. From just yards away, Lebowitz told
him, he had watched his countrymen raise the U.S. flag on Iwo Jima during World
"I was awe-struck," Taylor told
the Catholic Review, Baltimore's archdiocesan media outlet. "It was hard to
imagine meeting someone like that."
The arrival ceremony ended with
the town crier ringing a hand bell as he led veterans to waiting tour buses
near the baggage claim area. Approximately 100 Naval Academy midshipmen and
military personnel saluted as the U.S. Park Police led the escort for the
"It's all worthwhile," Taylor
said, acknowledging the smiles and tears evident on the faces of the veterans.
- - -
More information about the Honor
Flight Network can be found at HonorFlight.org or on Facebook by searching
Honor Flight BWI.