By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Charles D. Gaddis IV, Navy Public Affairs Support Element, Det. Northwest
SEA-TAC, Wash. – Service members from across the Northwest Region assembled at the Seattle Tacoma International Airport (Sea-Tac) for the arrival of more than 60 World War II veterans returning from an all-expenses paid trip to Washington, District of Columbia, March 16.
The Honor Flight Network (HFN) is a non-profit organization created solely to honor America’s veterans for all their sacrifices. HFN transports veterans to Washington District of Columbia to visit and reflect at the memorials of heroes. Top priority is given to the senior veterans – World War II survivors, along with other veterans who may be terminally ill.
More than 70 uniformed service members from the Department of Defense were present for the return of World War II veterans from all services.
“It is an amazing feeling and honor to spend time and show respect for our veterans,” said Master-at-Arms 1st Class Richard Lundgren, assigned to Naval Base Kitsap Security. “My grandfather was a World War II veteran and I feel a connection when we take time to honor them.”
During the assembly, service members spoke with one another about their experiences in the service as they awaited the honored guests.
“I believe it’s important to be here to set the example and keep a tradition alive,” said Coast Guard Master Chief Electrician’s Mate David Kressley, assigned to Coast Guard Base Seattle Naval Engineering. “Coming to events like this you witness a different perspective of the military and it’s humbling.”
As the World War II veterans arrived, the lobby exploded in an uproar for the return of the honored guests.
“It’s completely overwhelming to meet and greet these veterans,” said Marine Corps Sergeant Bertaly Ramirez, assigned to Marine Corps Security Force Battalion, Bangor. “They thank us, but we thank them because if it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t be where we are today.”
The veterans along with their active duty escorts walked through Sea-Tac airport and received cheers and applause as they made their way to the ceremony lobby.
“I feel it’s an eye-opener for junior service members along with civilians,” said Army Staff Sergeant Sabrina Martinez. “The military wants to show our veterans that we still care.”
The Navy Band Northwest’s Five Star Quintet played each service’s anthem and tears dropped from veterans and active duty members’ eyes alike.
Puget Sound Honor Flight is now accepting veteran applications for upcoming trips in May and beyond.
For more information on Honor Flights, go to https://www.honorflight.org