A hot Tuesday in July I attended the weekly meeting at Argonne National Laboratory of the Darien Rotary Club of Darien, Illinois. Little did I know that that particular meeting would provide me with a life altering and most humbling experience. It was during this club meeting that we had the opportunity to hear a presentation about an organization called Honor Flight Chicago (HFC).

HFC is an organization that wants to provide a gracious Thank You and Celebration for all those who served during World War II as its Misson. The acknowledgment of the tremendous sacrifice and commitment to the values, ideals, and freedoms of the United States of America made by the Greatest Generation during one of the most threatening times in our young history is celebrated with an all expenses paid trip the Washington D.C. to see the World War II Memorial commemorated to the memory of their commitment to preserve our country. The Veterans are accompanied by a large contingent of support staff that volunteer their time to make this trip a safe, fulfilling experience.

Needless to say after listening to this presentation and seeing Honor Flight Chicago tell their story in video this old veteran was hooked and wanted to be a part of helping. That evening I went to the HFC website downloaded the forms and requested to be a HFC Guardian. I was selected and that experience came to life yesterday and it was a thrill and an honor to spend the day with Nel Quam from Huntley Illinois. Nel served in the United States Air Force in Italy.

It was a very actioned pack day starting with my alarm at 2:00 AM out the door by 3:00 AM arriving at Midway by 3:45 AM. I was processed as a Guardian by 4:00 AM and was introduced to Nel around 5:30 AM. From that point on the fatigue faded and the excitement began to build. Conversation was flowing and I learned a great deal about the human spirit and the great sense of humility by all the Vets … in their eyes they did nothing special they just did what had to be done.

The itinerary bought us to The Iwo Jima Memorial, The Lincoln Memorial, the Vietnam Memorial, and the Korean Memorial. The day was full of new found camaraderie, old stories, crystal clear and forgotten memories. My job was to be there, make the experience as effortless for the vet as possible, help when needed, always be on the lookout for potential slip or trip hazards, and most of all be a companion to share the experience. I have to admit it was the one of the most personally fulfilling 20 hour days I have ever spent and I am honored I was able to help in whatever small way I could and be amongst the heroes of the Greatest Generation.

You can view the photos taken in my Flickr page.

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