On Sunday, Nov. 9, I and 28 other veterans from World War II, Korea and Vietnam returned from a glorious trip to Washington, D.C., to see the monuments dedicated to those veterans. We were invited guests of Veterans Honor Flight.

We assembled at the Portland Jetport the morning of Nov. 7, spent time getting to know one another and received a box lunch from Arby’s. We were all in wheelchairs, escorted by our guardians. Going through the crowd toward the plane, we received greetings, clapping and handshakes from the onlookers.

Arriving in Baltimore on Southwest Airlines, we received the same greetings from the people in the terminal. We boarded a van to take us to the Hilton Hotel where, after checking in, we were treated to a buffet dinner.

The next morning, after a buffet breakfast, we boarded a bus and escorted by motorcycle police and 18 motorcycle riders we traveled non-stop to the World War II monument. Again, the crowd of people, schoolchildren and adults, cheered, clapped and shook our hands while saying, “Thank you for your service.” There was not a dry eye among us.

MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE FOR ALL

We were inspired by the monuments we saw: World War II, Korea, Vietnam. Iwo Jima statue. Air Force, Navy and Coast Guard monuments.

Then boarding the bus, we headed toward Arlington Cemetery where we witnessed the impressive ceremony of the changing of the guard, then a sightseeing trip through the center of Washington, seeing the government buildings we only read about. Then to a nice restaurant for a buffet dinner. Again, cheering and clapping upon our entrance.

The next morning after breakfast, we headed to the airport for our trip home. The same greetings. A women’s glee club sang for us the song, “This Land is Your Land.” We landed at the Jetport among crowds of well-wishers thanking us again.

This trip, for all of us, was a memorable experience.

The Veterans Honor Flight carried over 117,000 veterans to our nation’s capital to see its battle monuments. They depend on donations from organizations and not necessarily from veterans because they figured they had contributed enough.

The front of our T-shirts read: “Veterans Honor Flight Maine.” The back reads: “If you can read this, thank a teacher. If you can read this in English, thank a veteran.”

— Special to the Telegram