The men and women who grew up during the Great Depression and fought to protect our freedoms during World War II are often referred to as “The Greatest Generation.”
I now have a better understanding of why these individuals were given that title.
Recently, I had the distinct honor of serving as the guardian to my grandfather, James Tice, on the Great River Honor Flight, which departed from Quincy, Ill. I am so thankful I had the opportunity to take this trip with him.
The other guardians on the trip and I were responsible for the care of six World War II veterans, one of whom was my grandfather, and 28 Korean War veterans. My grandfather served with the U.S. Army in the 9th Infantry Division and was stationed in Germany.
The veterans were excited, practically giddy, about everything on the trip. My grandpa had never flown in a large aircraft and was beaming from ear to ear. Several times throughout the day he said: “I never dreamed I’d be able to take a trip like this.”
The day was packed full with a bus tour of Washington, D.C., then visits to the Korean and Vietnam wars memorials, the Lincoln Memorial, the Air Force Memorial, where we got a view of the Pentagon, and the World War II and Iwo Jima memorials. The veterans also had the chance to witness the Changing of the Guard Ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery.
I always knew what my grandfather and others did for our country was something to be thankful for and proud of, but to see complete strangers approach them, shake their hands and thank them for their service, brings tears to the eye. I became choked up numerous times, especially when I could see how much the WWII Memorial meant to Grandpa.
These men are the most selfless, thankful group of people I have ever met. Several times on the trip I heard them say they did what they had to do and didn’t understand why people were making such a big deal about it.
My grandpa even remarked: “Can you believe this bunch of old men won a war?”
And yes, Grandpa, I can believe it. You and your fellow veterans are some of the greatest men (and women) who have ever served this country and will always deserve to be called “The Greatest Generation.”