By Spc. Ryan Stroud, 59th Ordnance BrigadeSeptember 18, 2009
When you drive the streets of Huntsville at 4 a.m., you're not going to see much. You'll pass closed buildings, dark streets, and you won't find many citizens wondering around. But as you pull into the Huntsville International Airport, you'll find Soldiers standing with members of the Patriot Guard, holding giant American flags, waiting for some special guest to arrive.
Who's the special guest, you might ask' Is it a general' How about a music singer coming to play a concert for the Soldiers'
None of the above.
These Soldiers and civilians of Huntsville, Madison and Redstone Arsenal are waiting for members of the greatest generation - World War II veterans coming to the airport to participate in an Honor Flight, a trip to see the WW II memorial in Washington, D.C.
This edition of the Honor Flight took place Aug. 29.
"The Honor Flight is an organization where (they) solicit donations from various corporations and private and public donations, all to fly these World War II veterans and volunteers to Washington, D.C., so these vets can see their memorial and remember those who died serving our country," said Sgt. 1st Class Scott Fuchs, senior small group leader for the Basic NCO Course, 59th Ordnance Brigade.
"This memorial is long overdue and some of the veterans are getting up there in age," he said. "For these vets, it can be really hard for them to travel so the Honor Flight is (extremely) helpful to them. It's also good for these war heroes to see what was made in their and their fallen (brethrens') honor."
When Fuchs and his Soldiers arrived at the Huntsville International Airport, they got into position and awaited their guests.
"The members of the (ANCOC and BNCOC) classes were in the garage of the airport, lining the second floor of the garage to greet the World War II veterans and their families as they approached the entrance," Fuchs said. "We wanted to let the veterans and their families know we're here for them, that we're proud of them and that we, as Soldiers, still care about them."
Sgt. Anthony Jones, a member of the 24th Military Intelligence Battalion in Germany, and Sgt. Jajuan Broadnax, of Fort Bragg, N.C., were two of the many Soldiers and civilians in attendance.
"This was a great chance for us, as a group, to honor these (veterans)," Jones said. "These were the guys who came before us; without them, we wouldn't be here today. Some of these (vets) have Purple Hearts and Bronze Stars, so it was good for me to see real combat veterans who went before me."
"For me, this was a very humbling experience because they are military celebrities," Broadnax said. "They've been there, they've done that. They've got the decorations (awards) to prove it."
Broadnax also said the experience hit close to her heart.
"While the veterans were talking to us, I got a little emotional," she said. "These are the ones who laid the groundwork for us. They defended our country so we could live freely.
"This was an emotional experience. You really can't put it into proper words."
Both Fuchs and Jones said they hope the others in attendance get a better appreciation for service and freedom.
"After seeing these vets, I hope our Soldiers get a better appreciation for what they do and a better appreciation for those who fought before them," Fuchs said. "I hope they feel selfless service. I hope this event made them proud and they'll go back to their units and share this experience with their Soldiers."
"I'm going to talk to my Soldiers about the aspect of remembering those heroes who came before us," Jones said. "The Army's been around for 230-plus years, and there's some remarkable stories out there. We are what we are today because of these heroes and I'm going to instill into my Soldiers a sense of pride in our veterans. I'm going to remind them that we fight in the same Army as these heroes did."
"It's important to remember heritage," Broadnax said. "You can't grow as a Soldier, as a unit or as an Army without remembering heritage. We need to remember why we stand up and protect what we believe in, and one way we can do this is by honoring our veterans."