As I was driving back to Worthington Friday afternoon, I began to reflect on the six welcome home ceremonies I’ve witnessed and covered during the past seven years as a Daily Globe reporter.
Six homecoming celebrations … two very different reasons.
Four of the welcome home events have been for our present day heroes — the soldiers who have committed a year or more of their life to serve in the desert sands of Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan.
The other two celebrations I’ve been present for were the return of our World War II heroes following their Honor Flight journey to Washington, D.C., to view their memorial.
On one hand, I’ve seen young wives eager to hug, kiss and hold their modern day heroes, and on the other, I’ve seen middle-aged “kids” bursting with pride as their mom or dad finally experienced the kind of welcome home they deserved some 66 years ago at the end of World War II.
One group of veterans is young, full of life and proud to have served their country. The other group, wrinkled and loveable, has a youthful attitude that makes me smile and wish other generations of people could be as sweet and sincere as them. The American pride shown by the veterans of our greatest generation is immeasurable, and the same is true for the newly christened veterans of Operation Enduring Freedom.
Whether young, old or somewhere in between, all veterans deserve our thanks. It’s because of them we can begin to understand what true sacrifice is. It’s because of them we place our hand over our heart at the singing of the National Anthem and feel the pride deep in our soul. It’s because of them that we enjoy the freedoms we have today.
Next week, Daily Globe readers will again be able to read about those sacrifices our men and women of World War II made in serving our country.
There are just nine weeks until the fourth and final Honor Flight Southwest Minnesota participants embark on their journey.
Globe staffer Aaron Hagen and I are honored to once again be making the flight to interview and photograph our World War II heroes on this trip of a lifetime.
I’ve often said in the last year and a half that interviewing our region’s World War II veterans has been a greater history lesson for me than anything that could have been taught in the classroom.
My one-on-one visits with these men and women have been the greatest joy of my journalism career. I hope the stories give our readers a true picture of the sacrifices these heroes made. Without their efforts, our latest heroes might not be saluting the beautiful red, white and blue.