"A GATHERING OF EAGLES"
by Stan Griffin
 

They filtered into Dayton (Ohio)ís International Airport, 114 strong; mostly elderly men, many in wheelchairs. Hair was graying and thinning, faces lined but still with eager looks as they contemplated the adventure which awaited them. It was going to be a long day, but they were ready!

As they entered the terminal, they met younger men and women wearing blue T-shirts who pointed them to a corner where they all received badges to be hung around their necks with names and a place for a picture ID. They also were given a gray T-shirt. On the front were the words "HONOR FLIGHT." On the back could be seen two sentences: "If you can read this, thank a teacher." and " If you can read this in English, thank a veteran."

The men and women in blue T-shirts were "Guardians." On this day they would be helping make the journey easier for the others in any way they could. Without them, the day would have been impossible. Their shirts had a quote from Will Rogers on the back: "We canít all be heroes. Some of us have to stand on the curb and clap as they go by."

The senior men and women were veterans, most having served in World War II. They were in Dayton to begin a momentous journey to Washington, D.C. where they would spend a day visiting a memorial dedicated to them and thousands of their "brothers in arms": men and women from all walks of life who had taken part in a conflict against an enemy determined to destroy America. The men and women in Dayton were lucky ones who had survived that terrible war and returned to resume their lives while thousands of their comrades had not.

The veterans waited patiently as others came into the terminal and were prepared for the dayís activities. Many struck up conversations with total strangers sitting next to them; a lot of them found they had similar experiences. Before the day was over, numerous new friendships were created.

Soon the Guardians began directing the veterans to areas where they would be "checked in" by security personnel. It was a tedious process, but patience remained constant among them. They had helped defeat one enemy almost 70 years ago. They knew, however, we have another foe today, just as determined to put an end to our countryís way of life. This enemy had "hit us where we live," using hijacked airliners. These time-consuming and tedious lines were in place to prevent another such attack.

Once the processing was complete, the veterans moved slowly through the airport and into another line, this one leading to the jetliner which would carry them to the nationís capital. The veterans were directed to their seats. Carry-on baggage was stored away as were all the wheelchairs.

The pilot came on the intercom, and passengers learned that he, too, was a veteran. This seemed to be a good omen. It wasnít long until passengers could hear the engines start up. Soon the plane began to move, slowly at first, bumping along the runway. Gradually it increased in speed. Then the wheels left the ground, and there were no more "bumps."

The "Honor Flight" was on its way to Washington, D.C.

 

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