Every year since 1919, when President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day, we celebrate and honor America's veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and sacrifice for our common good. While we as citizens appreciate their service to us all, it isn't always easy for a veteran to share his or her story and it can be even harder for those who haven't served to comprehend their individual experiences. Honor Flight Columbus, whose mission is to "help veterans share their stories with future generations and give them the homecoming that many never received" provides an experience that heals our veterans and our nation.
Battelle recently sponsored the 118th Honor Flight Columbus to thank 86 veteran heroes for their service to our country. Throughout the day's long journey, shared camaraderie, unity and remembrance carried the veterans from one armed forces monument to the next in our nation's capital.
"We are honored to support our veterans every day, and through special opportunities and occasions such as Honor Flight and Veterans Day," said Lou Von Thaer, Battelle President and CEO, "Battelle's mission is centered on protecting our country, and we recognize the skills and talents of our military community and the many sacrifices they each have made."
Sixteen members of Battelle's staff attended the Honor Flight as "guardians" who, with other volunteer guardians, were responsible for supporting the veteran's well-being and enjoyment throughout the day.
"Support of Honor Flight Mission 118 was emotional and impactful to both the veterans and the guardians who escorted the veterans," said Trent Good, a Vice Chair of the Battelle Military Support employee resource group who served as a guardian and is a veteran himself. "Giving these heroes the opportunity to visit the nation's capital and tour the memorials that were built for them was not only rewarding but allowed veterans to pay tribute to their fallen brothers and sisters."
The adventure started with Columbus Division of Fire engines showering the departing plane from the John Glenn Columbus International Airport. The excitement was everywhere as some of the veterans discussed their expectations for their first-time visit to Washington D.C. The arrival in D.C. was made even more special by the Daughters of the American Revolution and other flag waving supporters as the veterans were greeted and thanked for their service at the Reagan National Airport.
The Daughters of the American Revolution greet Honor Flight #118 veterans at the Reagan National Airport.
The first stop on the tour for the Honor Flight attendees was the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial where many veterans posed with their guardians at the iconic sculpture of Marines raising the flag at Iwo Jima. "It was a great honor to spend time with the veterans, hear their stories and to experience the shared camaraderie," said Jason Shepherd, Battelle Social Scientist and U.S. Army Veteran.
U.S. Army Veteran John Fabing, Battelle Guardian and U.S. Marine Corp Veteran Michael Kovach with U.S. Marine Corp Veteran Mike Adkins at the U.S. Marine Corp War Memorial.
Then the buses were off to the U.S. Air Force Memorial and the U.S. Navy Memorial. For some, it was the first time seeing a monument dedicated to their branch of service, and each memorial gave the veterans a renewed sense of pride.
Left: U.S. Air Force Memorial featuring spires that soar 402 feet into the sky to capture the spirit of the "wild blue yonder". Right: U.S. Air Force Veteran Tim Hall, Battelle Guardians Jason Shepherd (U.S. Army Veteran) and Jessica Ruble with U.S. Navy Veteran Dan Kieselhorst.
Left: U.S. Air Force Veteran Charles Young, Battelle Guardian and U.S. Navy Veteran Nick Dean with U.S. Army Veteran Don Hostetter. Right: The U.S. Navy Memorial features towering masts with signal flags and the plaza features the largest map in the world.
The next destination was the World War II Memorial at the National Mall. It was a somber visit as the veterans walked with their guardians to each of the different American war memorials. Throughout the trip, middle schoolers on their own tours of the nation's capital would come up to the veterans and respectfully thank them for their service to our country. These were some of the most emotional exchanges throughout a very emotional day and each one felt very special.
Honor Flight #118 Veterans and Guardians at the U.S. World War II Memorial
Honor Flight Veterans with Medina Ohio Middle School Students on their trip to Washington DC
Forrest Davis, the only Korean War Era Veteran on Honor Flight #118, received a flag for his service in the U.S. Army during a ceremony at the World War II Memorial.
On Battelle's sponsored flight, there were more than 80 Vietnam era veterans, so the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was one of the highlight destinations for the group. Once there, most found a friend or family member’s name on the wall, a testament to those that had given the ultimate sacrifice. Small flowers were given to the veterans to place under the names of those they had lost during the war.
Battelle Guardian and U.S. Air National Guard Veteran Chris Schiefer with U.S. Merchant Marine Vietnam Veteran Carl Collier at the Vietnam Veteran Memorial
"Battelle is proud to sponsor Honor Flight Columbus #118 and found it especially gratifying to provide some closure for these men and women who served our country with valor," said Chris Schiefer, Battelle employee and Air National Guard Veteran. "We are proud of their service and see this is a small payment on the debt that all Americans owe the brave people who protect our great country."
U.S. Navy Rick Chapman with U.S. Army Sergeant First Class Curry with U.S. Navy Veteran Bill Chinn at the Vietnam Veteran Memorial
As the day was coming to an end, Honor Flight attendees were given front row seating at the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider and then time at Arlington National Cemetery followed by dinner at the Military Women’s Memorial in Arlington, VA.
Honor Flight 118 Veterans and Guardians watching the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
Utica Ohio Veterans at U.S. Senator and Marine Corp Veteran John Glenn’s gravesite in Arlington National Cemetery
In the days following Honor Flight #118 the gratitude of all who participated continued. “I am a disabled Navy veteran, and your sponsorship provided me with an opportunity that I would not have been able to afford on my own," said one veteran who sent Battelle a thank you note after the experience. “Your personnel on the trip were so supportive and friendly it added to trip's atmosphere. This was the homecoming that many Vietnam veterans were denied due to the time in history and the circumstances of an unpopular war."