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Trip of a lifetime

Brooksby veterans travel to Washington, D.C., aboard Honor Flight New England

Created date

January 12th, 2017
Veterans and their guardians observe the Changing of the Guard at Arlington National Cemetery as part of a day trip to Washington, D.C., aboard Honor Flight New England.

Veterans and their guardians observe the Changing of the Guard at Arlington National Cemetery as part of a day trip to Washington, D.C., aboard Honor Flight New England.

In September 2016, 17 veterans who live at Brooksby Village in Peabody, Mass., traveled to Washington, D.C., courtesy of Honor Flight New England.

Honor Flight New England is part of the national Honor Flight Network, a nonprofit organization that takes veterans to the capital to visit the memorials honoring their service. Private donations fund Honor Flight, keeping it free of charge to veterans.

The day trip included a visit to the World War II Memorial, the Changing of the Guard at Arlington National Cemetery, the Marine Corps War Memorial (also known as the Iwo Jima Memorial), the Air Force Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Korean War Memorial. 

Since its inception in 2009, Honor Flight New England has taken 1,474 veterans on 42 flights to see the memorials. World War II veterans receive top priority. In Spring 2016, Honor Flight New England also began transporting Korean War veterans.

No reason not to go

Prior to the trip, Brooksby resident and World War II veteran Bob Meuse had endless reasons why he shouldn’t travel aboard an Honor Flight: He thought he was too old, the journey would require too much walking, he wasn’t sure he had the stamina for such a trip.

“The representatives from Honor Flight wouldn’t have any of it,” says Bob, who served in the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF). “They had an answer for my every excuse.”

Each of the 60 veterans on the September Honor Flight trip traveled with an assigned guardian. Guardians are volunteers who ensure the veterans have a safe, memorable, and rewarding experience. 

Jennifer Smith-Petersen, community resources coordinator at Brooksby, volunteered as a guardian on the trip.

“It was a wonderful opportunity to honor our veterans,” says Smith-Petersen. “The day was packed with emotion.”

Honoring our heroes

The veterans and their guardians flew from Boston to Baltimore, where fire trucks provided a water cannon salute upon their arrival, and people lined the airport concourse to clap and offer their thanks.

Buses, accompanied by a motorcycle escort, whisked the group to Washington.

“We were treated like celebrities everywhere we went,” says Bob, who graduated from aviation cadet training in April 1944, a month after his twentieth birthday. “We were just kids when we went to war. It was remarkable to think back on that time in my life.”

All told, Bob flew 32 missions over Germany during World War II. He was assigned to the 389th Bomb Group, 567th Squadron, 3rd Combat Wing.

“As far I as I know, I’m the last one left from my group,” says Bob, echoing an oft-repeated Honor Flight sentiment. As the number of World War II veterans dwindles, it’s a race against time to take as many veterans as possible to see the memorials in their honor.

As for Bob, his reservations about the trip evaporated over the course of the day.

“They took good care of us, and we were welcomed at every stop along the way,” he says. “I wish I could go again.”

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