Monday, May 25, 2015

Showing up for Memorial Day

Just over a week ago, I saw an act of patriotism and compassion that people like to say they support,
My mom and dad with Bob.
but rarely take the time or the effort to take part in.

My parents, Rick and Kathy, helped a local WWII veteran, Bob Sorman take part in an "Honor Flight" to Washington D.C. The program helps as many living WWII veterans get to DC for a day to see the various memorials around the city. The Minnesota Vietnam Veterans Charity organizes and funds the flight for the veterans. A "guardian" accompanies each person taking the trip. 

My mom nominated Bob, who is 90-years old. He's volunteered for 27 years at the Forest Lake Adult Learning Center, where my mom used to work. He just passed the 4,500 hour volunteering mark.

Here's a list of his military accomplishments, from the Forest Lake Lowdown:
His military service included 20 years in the Navy and Army, four of them during WWII. He was part of several naval battles, specialized in gunnery, completed special training to counter spy activity and retired with five battle star medals.  
My dad accompanied Bob on the flight. Basically, his responsibility was to help him get around and make sure he stayed well during the day.

Here's the thing about my parents. They are not overtly patriotic people. They do not have bumper stickers that say "support the troops."

My dad did serve in the Vietnam War, but he rarely talks about it. He's not the type to go to the VFW and swap war stories or wear any sort of clothing that signifies that he serves. (Not that there is anything wrong with doing any of these things, but it's just not my dad.)

However, they both went headfirst into helping make the Honor Flight a memorable one for Bob. My dad attended the pre-event meetings and got excited about returning to the nation's capital. My mom organized a welcome home gathering for Bob, inviting many former students and members of Bob's family (he has 10 kids).

The group left Minneapolis Airport around 6 a.m. on a Saturday. They were set to return at about 10 p.m. I rode with my neighbor and my brother to Terminal 2 of the MSP airport, while my mom and aunt and uncle drove in another car. At just around 10 p.m. I would say there were over 250 people there to welcome the vets home. A color guard lined the way. Some service members dressed in full Class A uniforms, some waved flags. About 15 former students and family members came to welcome Bob.

The flight was late, so they group arrived and got off the plane around 11 p.m. It was quite the scene when they reached the crowd. People applauded, they stopped to give hugs and shake hands, a man played bagpipes (I suppose there is some significance to this, but I'm not sure what.) The group had cupcakes and lemonade waiting for them.

Bob stopped and hugged everyone who had come to welcome him home. I drove my dad and Bob back to Forest Lake after their long day.

In an age where "Support the Troops" is too often used as a money-making device, where "liking", "retweeting" and "sharing" is considered a strong enough currency to pay back those who gave so much and where we fire up the grill once we've done our duty, you don't often see genuine moments of support. It's easy to say "support the troops",  it's harder to show up.

My parents showed up, in a big way.

My parents didn't get paid for helping Bob, nor did they post selfies with him. They did it because they like helping other people. They did it because it was a good thing to do.

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