Monday, July 17, 2017

Honoring Those Who Fought for Our Freedom

My first honor flight experience was one I will never forget. One hundred and ten Veterans from the Korean and Vietnam Wars arrived in Washington, D.C. on a gloomy, overcast morning. However, the weather could not dampen their spirits as they proudly exited the plane to a mass of cheers and welcome. As I stood there clapping, smiling, and welcoming the Veterans off the flight, I took a moment to consider how things had changed since the last time they were welcomed off a plane in such a manner. I wondered if all of them had been so deservingly honored with a welcoming home from their service. The smiles on their faces and tears in their eyes – most of them would only admit to allergies or “sweaty eyes” – told me that this moment was unlike any other for the honored guests of the capital.

For most of the Veterans, it was their first time in Washington, D.C. and the guided bus tour provided their first glimpse at the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, and more. Having lived in D.C. for only a month, the monuments became just objects disrupting the D.C. horizon to me instead of the wonderful testaments to American freedom. The Veterans’ marveling and appreciation for the monuments and memorials provided me a renewed significance of the grounds. 

The honor flight experience added context to the importance of my work with the We Honor Veterans program this summer. After learning of the many challenges that Veterans face in terms of health and mobility, the opportunity for the Veterans to visit the nation’s Capitol that they sacrificed and fought so valiantly for became much more significant. In fact, many of the Veterans that required wheelchairs to get off the plane chose to stand and walk through the memorials instead of being assisted. Their perseverance and respect for their fallen brothers in arms was admirable and inspiring.

 It was an honor to help the Veterans locate a friend’s name on the Vietnam Memorial wall or even just listen to their stories. I had the fortune of being present for the reunion of two Veterans who had not fought in the war together, but worked at the same gas station in the years after the war. The two talked about the feeling of significance that they felt in their work during the war and the lost sense of purpose upon returning. Hearing the conversation reaffirmed the need to honor and respect Veterans regardless of one’s position on war. 
Welcoming and walking alongside the Veterans from the honor flight renewed my respect for Washington, D.C. and its symbol of freedom. Additionally, the experience helped me understand the need to continue to show respect to our Veterans of all wars for their service and dedication to protecting the independence of our country that we just celebrated on the Fourth of July. I cannot express my sincere gratitude enough for the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization and the Honor Flight Network for the amazing opportunity.

By Kevin Curwick
Kevin is an intern working with NHPCO’s Access Team and We Honor Veterans program. He recently graduated from St. John’s University in Minnesota with a Bachelor of Arts in Integrative Health Science.  Kevin has done a lot of work at the Mayo Clinic, both as an undergraduate research assistant in their Pain Rehabilitation Center and as an undergraduate research fellow in their Department of Critical Care.

Every summer, NHPCO welcomes student interns who are involved in a wide range of projects for the organization and its affiliates. This summer, our three interns participated in an Honor Flight event in DC and we asked them to share their experience. This is the third in the series of three blogs from our interns.  See blog the previous blogs: "Some Wounds Never Heal"  and "Honoring American's Heroes."

No comments: