Honoring those who went before

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Gareth Buckland
  • 113Wg Public Affairs
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Approximately 30 volunteers from the D.C. National Guard spent the day honoring veterans by escorting and greeting a group of WWII veterans from Chicago as they visited the WWII Memorial in Washington, D.C., as part of Honor Flight Network.
The Honor Flight Network provides free flights for WWII veterans to come to Washington and see the memorial dedicated to them.
During the visit a ceremonial wreath presentation was held for one of the Chicago veterans's whose brother was listed as WWII MIA (Missing in Action).
"I saw the veterans tear up and actually cry when they exited the plane and seeing the receiving line," said Master Sgt. Lorene Kitzmiller, 113th Mission Support Group first sergeant. "I saw them swell with pride and thank us for greeting them."
According to the statistics, more than 1,200 of our WWII veterans die each day. The Chicago Honor Flight puts it into perspective with their motto "each day is a bonus." The Chicago Honor Flight alone has more than 15,000 veterans on the waiting list to come to Washington, D.C., to visit "their" WWII Memorial.
The veterans shared stories and took photos. For many, this was the first time they had seen the memorial, which honors the 16 million who served during WWII and the more than 400,000 who lost their lives.
Each volunteer served as a guardian to each of the veterans, ensuring their needs were met. After lunch they visited the Korean and Vietnam War Memorials, with a last stop at the Dulles Air and Space Museum. One of the veterans on the trip celebrated his 97 birthday; he opted not to use his wheelchair most of the day.
"I first became involved after moving to the area, but still being a first sergeant in the 118th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron in Tennessee last summer," said Sergeant Kitzmiller
"One of my tech. sergeants explained that his grandfather was going to make the trip and asked if I would be his grandfathers 'guardian.' I was not only able to do that, but the tech. sergeant was able to fly from Tennessee just minutes before the arrival of his grandfather. I was hooked after that!"
Sergeant Kitzmiller further explained that being a first sergeant takes a lot of 'giving' to do it right. I find it both a privilege and an honor to be a first sergeant, but sometimes it can be draining. Being a part of this organization 'refills my cup'. It's hard to explain, just what they actually give to me ... . I've made connections with these veterans, my grandfather who will be 91 this month is a WWII veteran, can't make the trip, but I can help those who are able hopefully enjoy their time by assisting them." Many of the veterans were greeted by family members when they arrived back in Chicago later that day. Many of them have written to express their thanks and gratitude to the Capitol Guardians for assisting them to visit their memorial.
For more information on being a guardian, contact Master Sgt. Lorene Kitzmiller via email
at lorene.kitzmiller@ang.af.mil.