We left the Columbia airport early Nov. 7th and returned later that night. There were soldiers there as well as the general public to greet and send us off with a salute, handshake, and a thank you. When we arrived at Reagan International, we were greeted with arches of water that the plane had to drive through and US Airways people standing on the tarmac with the American Flag, clapping and saluting of the plane. Once we disembarked from the plane, we were greeted with a member of branch of the service and then when we stepped into the terminal, we were blown away with the number of people there to greet us. Young and old alike shook the hands of each vet, thanking them for their service and patting me on the back and thanking me for bringing them. In front of the bus were about 50 "hogs" waiting to escort us into Washington.
Once we arrived at the WWII Memorial, we were greeted by Joe Wilson. People all around the memorial would come up to the vets to shake their hands and thank them for their service. I was blown away with the young kids that would shake my dad's hand and thank him. There are parents who are continuing to teach the younger generation about our heritage and for that I am forever grateful.
I was guardian for dad and for another vet, Paul, who lives in Irmo. He served in the Navy too so he and my dad had lots to talk about. I was able to leave them and go off to shoot/document our day there in Washington. At the end of the day, Paul thanked me for taking care of him and my dad even tho they had to hunt me down several times that day. He was very thankful when I gave him a copy of all the pixs that I took that day. He immediately shared them with his family and children as well as being excited about taking them to Fla. for a Thanksgiving get together.
While we were walking around the Vietnam Memorial, there was a couple following us and stopped me to ask if they could take pixs of my dad and Paul. The lady had had a dad fight in the war and wanted to get a pix of dad and Paul in their WWII caps. My dad who never meets a stranger and Paul who was as equally friendly struck up quite a conversation with this couple and their 2 boys.
After spending a very long and emotional day, we returned to Reagan International for the return flight. Their at our gate was a swing dance club waiting to greet and dance with the vets. They even danced with the guys in the wheel chairs. What an experience.
Another welcome was waiting for us when we returned to Columbia. Bands, people with signs, cub scouts were all waiting to shake hands and say thank you. I kept hearing someone yell my dads name as we moved through the crowd. When I finally got dad to turn and look, he recognized his neighbors. Neither one knew that the other was going to be there.
On a funny note: When we were at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, I left dad and Paul to get ahead of the crowd to get in position to take photos. When dad walked up, he was one level below me and I kept calling his name. He would never look in my direction. Finally, I called him by the nickname I gave him while I was in my teens. Martha, Melinda, and now the boys and Anna Claire call him by that name, Pops. When he heard that name, he turned and found me immediately!
My dad and I were very fortunate that we were able to share this day together. A memory that I will treasure for the rest of my life.