There are a couple of ways things can go when you hear the sorrowful, yet beautiful sound of a bagpipe humming between you and your departure gate at the airport.
Many of you, like me, travel for business, whether you’re a sales rep visiting prospects and customers throughout your region or a marketer headed to a trade show, conference or sister office. You’ve gotten the “quick business trip” down to something of a finely tuned process: boarding pass downloaded to smartphone; carry-on packed with work laptop, charging cable, pens and business cards, extra underwear and socks (you never know), and so forth.
You’ve learned how to zig and zag through the terminal, avoiding the people watchers, the slow walkers, and the occasional high school cheer squad on its way to a competition.
What you’re not expecting is – to see waving American flags and dozens of volunteers, fellow travelers, police honor guard members, American Legion members, and (one each) a US Senator and a bagpiper all standing around the gate ahead of you warmly welcoming World War II and Korean War veterans.
“These are veterans getting thanked for their service,” said Mike Pungercar, director of the South Willamette Valley Honor Flight. “We treat these men and women like royalty.”
Pungercar’s group is a chapter, or hub, of the national Honor Flight Network program, whose mission is to fly veterans to their respective military memorials in Washington, D.C. Preference is given to WWII veterans, then terminally ill veterans, Korean War veterans, and Vietnam veterans.
“It is a very powerful experience for many of these men,” Pungercar said. But, he said, these veterans will be the first to tell you the real heroes were the men and women who died in service and never made it back home.
On this Memorial Day, a US holiday remembering those who died while serving in the armed forces, what does it mean to remember?
For me, like many of you I’d guess, Memorial Day represents a three-day holiday weekend and the start of summer. And as you read this, I will be bike riding and wine tasting (separate events) in Canada’s Okanagan Valley with family and friends.
But as I write this, this respite is still weeks away. On my mind: being in Portland International Airport and watching Senator Ron Wyden (Democrat,Oregon) push a WWII vet in a wheelchair down the concourse on a Sunday evening, as travelers stopped what they were doing and lined up along each side of the column of vets to watch and applaud.