TEARS STREAMED DOWN the old soldier’s face as he read a letter of thanks. The writer could not know how much the note of appreciation meant to this veteran.
But Bob and Louise know. On Saturday the Nerstrand couple accompanied a plane-load of Minnesota WW II veterans on a one-day Honor Flight to Washington, D.C., to visit the WW II and other war memorials. The pair paid for their flight and that of several veterans and served as guardians for two soldiers.
It’s a trip they’ll always remember, particularly “mail call” aboard the flight. As the names of soldiers were read and thank you letters distributed, the tears began to flow. For one veteran, the moment was especially poignant.
Bob shares the man’s story. The soldier, he says, never got, or even expected, a letter while serving in the military. He was an orphan. So Saturday’s mail call deeply touched him, brought the old soldier, and Bob and Louise, to tears.
Many tears fell during that Honor Flight, they say. Bob spoke of the crowds and patriotic escorts, the appreciative signs and personal words of thanks to the soldiers when they arrived in the nation’s Capitol and returned later that evening to Minnesota.
Louise tells of visiting Nerstrand Elementary School to talk about the Honor Flight. The students penned letters of thanks like those received by the orphan soldier.
As Bob and Louise speak of the Honor Flight, goosebumps rise on my arms. I think of my father who fought on the front lines during the Korean Conflict. He was not welcomed home. In some small way, through the words my dad left unspoken, through his years of struggle, I understand the importance of paying respect to WW II soldiers today, decades after they’ve served their country.
I am grateful to Honor Flight organizers and to folks like Bob and Louise who sponsor and accompany these veterans. And I am grateful to the letter writers, for their words have the power to mend a soldier’s heart.
© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling