Honor Flight 50: Reflections on a remarkable journey

13WHAM's Don Alhart was on hand for Honor Flight's 50th mission over the weekend (WHAM photo)

Washington, D.C./Rochester, N.Y. – Honor Flight Rochester completed its 50th mission over the weekend, giving 40 local veterans and their guardians a chance to see the war memorials in Washington, D.C.

13WHAM’s Don Alhart was along for the ride. Below are his thoughts on an incredible journey and the heroes who took part…

A Life-Changing Trip

I have seen the welcome home before – even emceed the homecoming ceremonies on occasion. But I was never able to fully embrace the emotion of Honor Flight until this weekend.

Friends, who bond for just 32 hours, forming true friendships to last the rest of their lives – standing proudly by our American flag – to begin a powerful journey with the caring staff of volunteers, whose sacrifice of time and talent makes the time together even more special.

Arriving in Baltimore

The arrival in Baltimore takes us by surprise. Active service men and women – there to greet. And then to the monuments, from the names inscribed on the Vietnam Memorial Wall, to the stark statues of soldiers at the Korean Memorial - almost lifelike on this cloudy, misty morning. And the Air Force Memorial. The Women in Service Memorial. And, of course, World War II. The inscription reads, “Here, we mark the price of freedom.” There are 4,048 stars on this wall, each representing a life lost or missing from the conflict.

Most memorable, though, are friendships strengthened, family ties renewed and camaraderie of those who have served and made sacrifices for our nation – and the inspiration for another generation.

The Journey Home

A military mail call on the plane ride delivers personal letters from local students to the veterans – some of whom were at the airport to welcome them home. And, as they assemble to greet the crowds, they stand together with hand on heart to sing our national anthem.

I was warned my life would be changed this weekend. It was – and I, too, as so many did along our journey, say, thank you for your service.

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