By guest blogger Anita A. McCaskey, Troop 3690, Clifton, VA
As our country celebrates Independence Day this weekend, we all feel very patriotic and proud to be Americans. We remember the sacrifices made since the signing of the Declaration of Independence. We remember that freedom is not free, and we remember those who gave their lives to protect it. One group that made sacrifices and protected our country and freedoms arrive every week at one of our local airports. It is an incredible opportunity for our scouting community to welcome them and to show them how much we appreciate everything they have done for us. That group is our “Greatest Generation” – the brave men and women who served during World War II.
WWII Veterans are flown to Washington, DC for FREE, compliments of the Honor Flight Network. Two months ago, I had never heard of Honor Flight until they flew my uncle and 60 WWII Veterans to DC from Louisiana. That day, I was fortunate to be a witness to the VIP treatment they were given with tours of Arlington National Cemetery and the Korean, Iwo Jima, and WWII Memorials. I was moved to tears as I watched them lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and it warmed my heart to see the outpouring of love and support these men received from total strangers throughout the day. After that day, I became a volunteer. My involvement also helps me to remember and honor my dad, a WWII Navy Veteran, who has since passed away and never got to see “his” memorial.
As the mother of one Girl Scout and three Cub Scouts, it was a no brainer that my children would benefit greatly by getting them involved, too. The fact that they are all scouts was even better because what better way for them to learn about a generation that made the ultimate sacrifice than meeting the men and women who lived it! The more I thought about it, greeting WWII Veterans (or any Veteran for that matter) is a perfect match for all Scouts where they can express their patriotism, show leadership, honor our veterans and volunteer all at the same time! When welcoming Veterans at the airport, my children bring handmade banners, flags and proudly wear the scout uniform as a sign of respect for those they are honoring. The Veterans are incredibly appreciative even thanking us for coming to greet them when it is us who are most honored to be there for them.
The WWII Veterans are now in their 80s and 90s. Many have lost their mobility and are dying everyday. The opportunity for them to fly to DC and visit their Memorial means the world to them. To be greeted by crowds of people who they thought long ago forgot about them is priceless. So, please bring your Troop, Pack, family and friends to spread a little kindness and shake hands with REAL HEROES. As Will Rogers said: “We can’t all be heroes. Some of us have to stand on the curb and clap as the go by.”
For a flight schedule and additional details about how Scouts and their families can welcome our WWII Veterans or get more involved, go to www.heroeswelcome.org/ (Dulles Honor Flight volunteer site). This is truly a great way for scouts to volunteer, give Gift of Caring and/or work towards their Bronze, Silver or Gold Award.