April 2, 2016 changed my life in ways that I would not be able to adequately describe in the length of an article. Perhaps one day I will write a book about the numerous amount of lessons the day taught me but for now an article will have to suffice. I bet you are all wondering what exactly happened on April 2, 2016. To answer your question, I was fortunate enough to go on an Honor Flight with Hudson Valley Honor Flight as their social media person for the day and spend the day in Washington D.C with 82 different veterans from World War II and the Korean War.
So what is Hudson Valley Honor Flight? Hudson Valley Honor Flight is the most local hub near me of the Honor Flight Network. The mission of the Honor Flight Network is to "fulfill the dreams of our veterans and help our heroes travel absolutely free." With over 600 World War II veterans dying every day, it is imperative that we show them what their sacrifice means to not just the rest of the United States but to the world. In addition to World War II veterans, different hubs of Honor Flight are taking Korean and Vietnam War veterans as well.
When in Washington, veterans get to see the memorials made in their honor and receive different surprises and royal treatment throughout the day. Some of the royal treatment includes a dinner at a nice hotel in D.C for absolutely no cost to the veteran, receiving different surprises like sweatshirts, goody bags and t-shirts and having a police escort to help the group of veterans and accompanying them for the day (Side Note: Every veteran has a guardian accompany them throughout the day to be a companion and to assist them with whatever they might need. A guardian can be a family member or someone that is a volunteer who is assigned to them.)
As I stated before, I learned an abundant amount of lessons throughout the day. Some examples of them would be that Harry Truman's middle name was in fact just S, the World War II memorial has two sides to it, the Atlantic and the Pacific, and that it did not take a whole day dedicated to veterans to make them feel appreciated. All it took was saying thank you.
People often forget just how powerful the words thank you are. More often than not when veterans come home they blend back into society and appear to be just an average civilian. Most of the World War II, Korean and Vietnam War veterans did not get any special welcome home parades or articles written in their honor, they just got a train ticket home and were told to be on their way. Even men and women coming back home now from Iraq and Afghanistan do not get half the credit that they deserve.
Next time you see someone sporting a U.S Navy hat who looks to be in his late 80s or early 90s or a young 22-year-old woman sporting some Army Combat fatigues make sure you take two minutes out of your day to say thank you. You may just be the first person during the day, week, month or year that has.
Saying thank you does not solely apply to the United States military. If someone does something to make your life even just slightly easier make sure to let them know that you appreciate them.
One of the veterans on the flight turned to me at the end of the day and told me that it was the best days of his life for as long as he could remember. All he kept doing was thanking me for helping out and making this day so special for him and he said that out of everything what meant the most was everyone thanking him.
So show your appreciation to your loved ones and active/retired military close to you. It will mean a lot more than you think.