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11/10/10 | 3 comments |
Hugs for heroes
St. Andrew the Apostle students welcome World War II veterans to Dulles Airport.
Every year from early spring to late fall chartered planeloads of World War II veterans land at Dulles International Airport. From the planes, the veterans board buses to visit the World War II Memorial built in their honor in Washington, D.C. It’s an entire day. At the end, they return to Dulles Airport and fly home.
The men and women are there thanks to volunteers from Heroes Welcome, an affiliate of the American Legion Auxiliary Unit 180 in Vienna and the Honor Flight Network.
To honor World War II heroes during the week of Veterans Day, 50 students from St. Andrew the Apostle School in Clifton waited at the airport to cheer, hug and thank these men and women who sacrificed so much for their country.
Anita McCaskey, a parent volunteer from St. Andrew, came up with the idea of having students write notes and letters thanking them for their service — a kind of “mail call.”
She brought the idea to Principal Glenda Sigg and the idea to welcome the veterans at the airport was started.
The veterans that landed Nov. 9 were the second group in two days. These men and women were from Davenport and Bettendorf, Iowa, and Rock Island and Moline, Ill.
As the plane taxied to the gate, two fire trucks saluted them with an arch of water from fire hoses shot over the plane. This honor is reserved for fallen firefighters and veterans.
Most were in wheelchairs, but many walked through the waiting area and then down a corridor with the students on either side reaching out to shake their hands and touch them.
“It’s wonderful. I’m still crying,” said veteran Irvin McDougal.
“I think it’s nice to support the veterans,” said seventh-grader Skyler Behn. “They need to be supported for what they have done.”
Many of the vets wept openly.
Heroes Welcome volunteer Line Kerr told the children that these men and women were sometimes forgotten. Many have no family. She said they need hugs and kisses.
“I haven’t been kissed on the cheek in two years,” a veteran told Kerr during a recent visit after someone kissed him.
One veteran walked down beaming at the students who were shouting “thank you” to him. With tears in his eyes he said, “No, really, thank you, thank you so much.”
On the web
heroeswelcome.org and honorflight.org