We saw them at the airports with their parents and friends as they readied for their flights to duty stations that would take them to Korea and Vietnam and Iraq and then Afghanistan.
There were some places in between, but we weren’t supposed to know where we were sending our kids.
Our kids? Some object to that term, but I watched as two of my kids prepared their sea bags with gear that would clothe them, protect them, hold weapons that would hang from their bodies, maybe to eliminate someone who may be trying to do the same to them.
One could always tell at the airport who were the parents of the kids who were leaving for school or who were leaving for that other place, that in our minds were supposed to be telling us that it was for our common good. The school parents were happy, joyous, with that confident smile of knowledge that we will see you soon, around Christmas. The other parents wore that vacant, expressive, subtle smile of great hope of ever seeing them again, maybe never.
My mom could never come out of the bedroom, let alone go to the airport. Dad kept clearing his throat with all of the emotions that men of that era were allowed to show. But I went, and so did so many. I came back, but so many didn’t, and many came back different, changed.
We, at times, have ignored as a nation, a people, a misunderstood accumulation of sons and daughters. But somewhere, somehow, we came back to being a nation that is beginning to appreciate that kid that went off to keep freedom flying. One of those appreciations took place recently at our airport, Sea-Tac. Twice a year, we send World War II and Korean War veterans – and now a few Vietnam veterans – to the nation’s capital to visit the monuments that our country built and maintains.
It’s all part of the Honor Flight Network, a nonprofit organizations dedicated to transporting as many military veterans as possible to see the memorials of the respective war they fought in Washington, D.C., at no cost to the veterans.
The nonprofit brings our area’s veterans to the nation’s capital to explore the monuments, and honors them for their service.
At Sea-Tac, they arrived, rolled in their wheelchairs, walked along with canes and ambled through a gauntlet of uniformed, saluting, proud military men and women, standing at attention and saluting, as they returned from D.C.
They moved through the airport in single file as applause erupted spontaneously. They went between lines of more uniformed military and leather-wearing motorcycle veterans amid cheering, Old Glory waving, and a band playing, loud and clear.
Don Dinsmore is a longtime Kent resident, Navy veteran and regular contributor to the Kent Reporter.