Hunter served in the reserves. After WW2 vets and terminally ill veterans of any war had been accepted on the trip, the remaining seats were made available to other veterans, as well as reservists.
John Yeats (R) and his Guardian at the WW2 Memorial
(Image by Honor Flight of Virginia) Permission Details DMCA
89-year-old John Yeates of Newport News, piloted a C-47 in WW2, and towed gliders, dropped paratroops and cargo, picked up medical evacuees, and provided air support at Bastogne at the Battle of the Bulge. Like Hunter, Yeates said that one of the most important moments of the trip for him was the welcome that he and the other veterans received at the National Museum of the Marine Corps, where, he noted, the vets were applauded for their service.
Unbeknownst to the veterans, the HFHTVA had sent requests to the relatives listed on the application forms. Family members and friends were invited to write notes of appreciation to the veterans, and send them directly to Honor Flight.
Mail call was held on the bus ride back home and every veteran received a large envelope.
Each envelope was filled with cards and notes from friends and family, hand drawn cards from a group of schoolchildren, and a nostalgic vintage photo of a pin up girl. The bus grew quiet as each veteran read and digested the words of appreciation.
Some received notes from friends they hadn't heard from in years. One veteran received a note from a longtime estranged son, which brought tears and healed old family wounds.
The day had been full of many extraordinary moments. Still, some participants characterized the mail call as the most meaningful event on what most agreed was "one of the best days" of their lives.
Several veterans noted that the first time they had ever been thanked for their service was during their Honor Flight trip.
John Fitzgerald Kennedy said, "As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them" and the Honor Flight program is an inspiring example.