The Excitement, Anticipation Builds

I had intended to write a few online blogs this week about my recent experiences in Washington, D.C., but aside from sharing a story and several photos of the cherry blossoms, I simply ran out of time and energy.

My sleep schedule is still out of whack, and I feel like a little old lady when I’ve crawled into bed by 8:30 p.m. a few days this week. On the flip side, I’m wide awake at 5:30 in the morning, and I’ve discovered I can be productive at that horrible hour despite sitting in front of my home computer in my PJ’s.

Now that you have a mental picture of my disheveled morning appearance, please erase it for your own well-being!

While I may get around to writing more about the D.C. experience sooner or later, I want to share with you my most treasured experience of the trip. It wasn’t even on our itinerary — it just presented itself out of the blue … at the airport, no less.

The 20-plus U-Lead participants had gathered at Gate 1 at Reagan National Airport for our Thursday morning departure last week when, over the loudspeaker, it was announced that an Honor Flight had just landed and a plane filled with World War II veterans was about to be unloaded at our gate.

I was so excited I hurried to a spot toward the front of the welcome line, and joined the “D.C. Honor Flight Crew” in cheering on the arrival of a group of men and women from the Appleton and Green Bay areas of Wisconsin.

At the sight of that first veteran coming off the jetway at Gate 1, I began to clap and the tears started to roll down my cheeks … it’s a woman thing!

One by one, the veterans — many of them with a look of disbelief on their faces — looked at the gathering of cheering people. Many of them smiled, some were moved to tears and others, well, I think they still may have been in a state of shock by the time they boarded their buses to depart on the trip to view their World War II Memorial.

I shook each veteran’s hand, thanked him or her for serving our country and gave into hugs for those men with their open arms. One man slipped in a kiss on my neck. If he did that to every woman who gave him a hug on his Honor Flight excursion, I would imagine he returned home as one happy man.

At one point during the welcome, a fellow U-Lead participant turned to me and asked why I wasn’t taking pictures. My response was quick … this is my vacation. On the inaugural flight, and on the third flight I’m traveling with in just two weeks, I’ll be so busy snapping photos and getting quotes that I won’t be able to simply enjoy the looks on the faces of the veterans as they are cheered, thanked and celebrated.

Daily Globe sports editor Aaron Hagen will be the official photographer on this next journey, and I will be toting a notebook, audio recorder, camera and laptop to chronicle the trip for the 110 World War II veterans we will travel with.

I have just two more veteran features to write before this next journey, and if the wit of some of the veterans I’ve interviewed thus far is any indication, I know we all will have a fabulous time.