Folks in Washington need to take a hard look at their priorities. Attempting to block World War II veterans from visiting the memorial dedicated to their military service, as was done recently, is a new low in the behavior of the political class.
The Honor Flights, which sponsor thoughtful and carefully planned trips for World War II vets to Washington, D.C., is a remarkable private organization that does good for old guys who can't do for themselves. Vets are flown to the nation's capital to visit the memorial they've read and heard about but never seen, in most cases.
I was privileged to be a participant in an Oklahoma Honor Flight in June. To understand the extensive arrangements required for such a journey, consider that 42 of the vets aboard needed to move about in wheelchairs. One navigated with a seeing-eye dog. Just the logistics of loading and unloading the wheelchairs on and off the plane and on and off the buses, at multiple stops, and helping the guys into the chairs should give you pause. This kind of undertaking doesn't occur without significant and detailed planning. It was a marvel to behold how effectively the wheelchair process unfolded.
Each vet is assigned a sponsor, often a family member, who tends to his needs throughout the trip. So Honor Flights is dealing with not just 84 vets, but 168 people who require detailed instructions and meticulous shepherding for a night and a very long day. One of my sons accompanied me; he took vacation time to travel here from Seattle. Out-of-town sponsors had to make commercial flight reservations in advance for their flights to Oklahoma City. Canceling an Honor Flight at the last minute, as politicians might cause to happen, would impose a cost greater than what a person setting out to help others should be expected to pay.
The Honor Flight was a treat. It was a day that every man who made the trip will long remember. But it was more than a treat for veterans. Honor Flights represents the quintessential spirit of American generosity and remembrance. The veterans paid not a dime for their “king for a day” journey. Generous individuals and businesses picked up the tab, as they do for all flights. They feel it's important to remember what others have done for our country.
Politicians should stand down, stop the foolish maneuvers of trying to bar veterans from visiting their memorial, and try to match the generosity and remembrance of backers of Honor Flights.
O'Brien, of Oklahoma City, was a staff sergeant in the Army Air Corps, flying 50 missions as gunner on a B-24 operating from Italy in 1944 and '45.