Honor Flight: a WW II Veteran Reflects

The following account was written by my father, Nicholas J. Huizenga, a World War II veteran. He describes a Talons Out Honor Flight he took on May 16, 2015, along with a plane load of other WWII veterans. 

Nicholas Huizenga, USA private
Nicholas J. Huizenga, 1945

Memorial Day, May 25, 2015.

Nine days ago I joined 105 veterans of World War ll on a trip to Washington D.C. mainly to see the war memorials. The average age of the vets was 93 years, and each had an assistant and a wheel chair.

It was a long day, which began at the Gerald Ford airport in Grand Rapids at 5:30 a.m. and ended after midnight. During breakfast we heard the old songs of the War era by the Great Lakes Male Chorus before a grand send-off by scores of people, who applauded and shook our hands with expressions of appreciation for our service.

At the Ronald Reagan Airport in D.C. we were again greeted by scores of people while a professional group of women in their 60’s sang some of the old songs. Police cars escorted our six busses down the streets of Washington, while tour guides shared information about the buildings and monuments.

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My family was able to meet Dad as he came off the bus at the WWII Memorial.

Five Hour-Long Stops

We made five hour-long stops: (1) We saw the Air Force Memorial, the most recent, perched at the top of a hill with a great view of the city. (2) While at the Iwo Jima Monument we watched in silence while about 20 Marines performed precise silent drills with rifles. (3) We witnessed with reverence the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. (4) At the World War ll Memorial our daughter, son-in-law, and two granddaughters joined us, and we had a chat with Bob Dole. (5) We enjoyed the Roosevelt Memorial, where we saw a large statue of FDR and his dog Fala.

Nick discussing Michigan highlights with the Senator from Kansas.
Nick discussing Michigan highlights with the Senator from Kansas.

I told Bob Dole that I recently visited twice the old sanitarium built by Dr. Kellogg at the beginning of the past century.

Yes, said Dole. I spent three years there, recovering after the War.

The famous sanitarium went bankrupt during the Great Depression and became a federal hospital. The building continues as a federal facility, now named Dole, Hart, and Inouye, all senators who spent time here.

A small section of the 105 Veterans on this particular Honor Flight.
A small section of the 105 Veterans on this particular Honor Flight.

A Firetruck Escort

I learned later that ten of the men are residents of the Holland Home, though I did not know any. I did meet a friend from my young days in Munster Indiana and a classmate of Calvin College days. When we returned to the Grand Rapids airport, we were welcomed home by scores of people. Immediately, we were taken by bus to nearby East Kentwood High School, where hundreds greeted us with colorful posters, applause and expressions of appreciation. Kentwood police cars escorted us along the way, and about 10 fire trucks, all lit up. Between the fire trucks stood four persons who saluted us we passed.

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The evening before the Flight, we were provided dinner and entertainment at an upscale country club. Three singers sang some of the old tunes of the War Era like Sentimental Journey and Don’t Fence Me In. They were named the Boogie Woogie Babies.

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1940s music playing and two gals who treated the veterans to a kiss and a thank you!
1940s music playing and two gals who treated the veterans to a kiss and a thank you!

What impressed me most was that hundreds of people of all ages went out of their way to express appreciation for those who served in a war fought 70 years ago.

Mail Call

At about 9:00 p.m. I was trying to sleep on the plane, when I awakened by mail call.  One of the letters I received was from Abby D. of the Forest Hills Eastern High School. I don’t know Abby nor do I know where her school is. She doesn’t know me, but she wrote to me; it was not a copy. I was impressed that she took the time to write to an unknown vet. Following are excerpts of her letter: Both of my parents are veterans. My father was a Marine and my mother was a nurse in the navy. They were both done by the time my brain started remembering, but one of the things I was afraid of as a kid was them getting called back and having to fight but not coming home one day. If you had not done what you did, I wouldn’t have this nice life with all these Japanese video games .. . {I wondered about where the games from, but we did defeat the Japanese in the War.}

For more of my Dad’s writing on various and sundry topics, click here.


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