It was a memorable day for 46 World War II veterans.
The remarkable journey started at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport. For years of service and sacrifice, vets received “thank you” after “thank you” the moment they entered the airport.
This is Honor Flight 2014 — taking these vets to the World War II Memorial. It has only been around for about 10 years, so most of these men and women haven’t seen it. Organizers have raised tens of thousands of dollars to send them there. Alaska Airlines is comping the airfare. Geneva Woods has provided all the wheelchairs. Simply stated, these vets are going to Washington, D.C., for free.
Honor Flight volunteer Jacki Kalnoski said helping is the least she can do for those who sacrificed so much.
“I am so pumped,” Kalnoski said.
Kalnoski, a retired corrections officer, has at least 40 relatives who have served our country. When we finally caught up her, we better understood why she wants to help out.
“Because they gave me my freedom,” she said. “Every one one of these men and women gave me the right to make my choices today and they need to be thanked for that.”
Veterans were swapping stories, some of which they had never told. They were also making lifelong friends.
“This is typical Alaska, once you meet somebody you’re friends for life,” one veteran said.
The Alaska Air National Guard put the call out Tuesday for any members who wanted to send the group off. And just before departure, there was one more spontaneous, heartfelt “thank you” from an Alaska Airlines flight attendant who sang “America the Beautiful” as veterans filed onto the plane.
We are taking you along on the ride because for many of these vets, this could be the last chapter of their lives. Seven hundred World War II veterans die every day.