A wonderful compliment to Here I Raise My Ebenezer’s series on Securing the Legacy of the Greatest Generation. While we’re still blessed with their presence, let’s honor them and take time to get even better acquainted.
By: Cindy Shabaz
Cross-Posted From: Cindy’s Ponderings
It was the end of a long day for the 91 WWII veterans who left Chicago at 6:30 a.m. to tour War Memorials in Washington, D.C. But 9:00 p.m. was the beginning of the celebration for us; those who were welcoming them home. In the morning the veterans were nostalgically sent off with the Andrews- Sisters-style music of the Legacy Girls. After arriving in Washington, the veterans toured the Lincoln Monument, the newly-constructed WWII memorial, the Korean memorial, the Viet Nam memorial, the Iwo Jima Memorial and the Udvar Hazy National Air and Space Museum. And now at the end of their day a brass band played all the patriot songs while scads of volunteers donned in orange shirts passed out American flags to the friends and families who stood behind parade route guide ropes in Chicago Midway Airport Baggage Claim area. The bright faced, highly enthusiastic and helpful volunteers informed us of what the veterans in their 80’s and 90’s had experienced during the day and our role in welcoming them home. The spirit of the crowd was high. It didn’t take much imagination to put myself back at the end of WWII and be a grateful, relieved, joy-filled spectator at a “Welcome home, soldier” parade. In Midway Airport the anticipation was growing and when the bagpipes began, we knew the first veterans were headed to the start of the procession. When we saw them we were almost hushed with awe. Unlike 70 years ago, these were not young men and women, but people who had lived their lives and for many a wheel chair or an oxygen tank were their constant companion. However, I only saw one veteran break through the line of spectators to get to the restroom.
The volunteers led the way for us by reaching out to shake the gnarled hands of these freedom fighters while, saying, “Thank you for your service.” It didn’t take long for us to get into the groove.
My dad was one of the first ones to emerge and one of the few that walked the distance. He stopped along the parade route to give mom a kiss and then continued responding to the flag-waving crowds. He worked it like he was going down the aisles on Sunday mornings greeting people. He didn’t pass up a kid and even stooped to talk to many of them. Each veteran had a U.S. Sailor to push his wheel chair or carry his accumulated paraphernalia from the day. Dad’s navy escort was attentive to his every move and ready to catch this elderly man if he started to fall. I caught her grin as Dad displayed more energy than she might have anticipated from him.
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