Thanksgiving makes us mindful of all of our blessings. Continued good health, family, friends and my church are the things for which I am grateful year after year. This year, I must add an experience for which I am very thankful.
On May 22, I had the privilege of traveling with fellow veterans to Washington on a S.C. Honor Flight. Airport fire trucks with giant water cannons created an arc over the plane as we taxied to the gate in Washington. Inside the terminal, we received a heroes’ welcome from people of all ages, cheering, carrying banners and flags and playing musical instruments. They shook our hands, patted us on our backs and thanked us for our service.
We visited the World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, Iwo Jima and Lincoln memorials and the Women’s Military Museum. At Arlington Cemetery, we witnessed the solemn changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. At every stop, people came over to shake our hands and thank us for our service.
Upon our return to Columbia we were greeted by another sea of people waving flags, holding banners, shaking our hands and expressing their gratitude for our service. It was remarkable to see all the people and hear the band from Fort Jackson play patriotic tunes as we walked through a receiving line that spanned the length of the airport. The outpouring of thank you after thank you made this old solider feel that my time in Korea had made an important contribution to this country.
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I cannot thank Lexington Medical Center enough for picking up the expenses for our trip, and for joining with S.C. Honor Flight to produce a luncheon with a photo book and DVD chronicling our day. I also want to thank all of the individuals who took time to serve as escorts, especially Dave Day of Columbia, who was my escort.
I never will forget the time I served, the years since and the experience I had on May 22 with fellow veterans.
Denzil P. Ready