Monday, May 28, 2012

Sometimes it seems like writing is kind of a futile effort – like the words we write won’t get read and don’t really matter – but every once in awhile the world of being a writer opens the door to do something meaningful.  Whether you write to advise, inform or entertain, there is always the chance your writing may make a difference in someone’s life.

A few weeks ago a man walked into the Panhandle Sun newspaper office where I work and handed me an envelope.  He tried to say something then stopped.  He began again, but seemed unable to get the words out.  It dawned upon me he was trying not to cry. 

Glenn McKee entered the U.S. Navy in 1943.  At seventeen, his father had to sign for him to enter the service underage.  He finished boot camp and was sent to war aboard a landing ship dock that transported smaller boats, tanks and equipment.  During the next two years he saw action in seven major invasions and saw things he wishes he had never seen.  He remembers Okinawa as being the worst, but there were others: Saipan, Luzon, Leyte.

On April 30, 2012, Glenn and 35 other World War II veterans climbed aboard an Honor Flight and were flown to visit veteran’s memorials in Washington D.C.  The entire trip was paid for by donation.  The men attended a banquet and received thanks for their service wherever they went.

A few days later a cheering crowd welcomed them home at the Spokane airport.  Each received a handful of cards from area school children thanking them for their service.  The next morning Glenn came to see me. The envelope?  It contained his name tag from the trip which was printed with Honor Flight information. 

His gratitude continued to overwhelm him every time he tried to speak.  By the time I understood what he wanted, I too was in tears.

Glenn wanted me to place information about the Honor Flight in our paper.  He wanted to make sure that every veteran, no matter what health problems they had, made the trip.  He wanted to put information about the flight out there so others don’t have the trouble he did in getting on the waiting list.  He wanted every veteran to feel the thanks of a grateful nation. 

His story was on the front page of our paper on May 23, 2012.  The article included these same thank you cards.

I know Memorial Day is a day dedicated to honoring those who have given the ultimate sacrifice – their lives in service to our country.  But in this busy world, it is also a good time to thank all veterans for their service.

During WW II my father, his brother and three brothers-in-law were all serving our country.  I have some of their letters.  My dad was serving in the South Pacific as a bombardier in the U.S. Army Air Force.  My Uncle Kenny was a driver in the motor pool with the U.S. Army in France.  Uncle Jesse, Uncle Bob and Uncle Burt all served in the U.S. Navy.  Uncle Jesse was in Cuba at the end of the war.  Uncle Burt was a Pearl Harbor survivor.  They all came home from the war.  They are all gone now.  I wish they could have gone on the Honor Flight.

What you can do:
·        Tell any veterans you know about Inland Northwest Honor Flight.  Once World War II veterans have gone, communities are sending Korean and Vietnam veterans and intend to see that all who served make it to Washington D.C. to see their memorials. 
·        Make a donation to the Inland Northwest Honor Flight.  Find out more about the organization at

·     Join in the “National Moment of Remembrance” by pausing from whatever you are doing at 3:00 p.m. on Memorial Day, Monday, May 28, to observe a moment of silence in remembrance and respect for our veterans. 
·        Place a flower on the grave of a veteran.  In some communities, individuals place flowers on the graves of U.S. soldiers unknown to them, in appreciation of their service to our country.
·        Place a flag at the gravesite of a veteran.  Many groups place flags at the gravesites of U.S. soldiers.  Each year, soldiers from the 3rd U.S. infantry place over 260,000 flags at each of the gravestones at Arlington National Cemetery.
·        Visit a veteran’s memorial or place a wreath at a veteran’s memorial site.  Each year the U.S. president or vice-president places a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery
·        Attend a Memorial Day program.  Nearly every cemetery holds a Memorial Day program to honor our nation’s deceased veterans.  Check with your local cemetery, a local military group or watch for notices in your local newspaper.

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