To the editor:
Visiting our nation?s capital with my dad Charley B. Kunzman on the Eastern Iowa Honor Flight earlier this month was one of my nicest experiences. A little more than fifteen hours was steeped with emotion and pride as 89 beloved veterans ? two from World War II, others from Korea and Vietnam, guardians, and volunteer staff, filled the 747 transporting us from Cedar Rapids to Washington D.C., and back.
My sincere gratitude to E.I.H.F. for sponsoring trips for the courageous men and women who have selflessly served our country.
Sending someone I love off to war is not part of my personal experience, although many relatives, friends, and neighbors have done so. I really don?t know how it feels, yet being among veterans while viewing the national war memorials gave me goosebumps. Sculptures depicting poignant scenes of America during WWII brought history to life. Four thousand gold stars on the Freedom Wall commemorate more than 400,000 soldiers making the ultimate sacrifice for country and loved ones.
Names of 58,267 Americans, either known to have died or still missing, are inscribed on the Vietnam Wall of Honor. A granite wall at the Korean Memorial bears the inscription, ?Freedom is Not Free.?
We witnessed a Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and two wreath ceremonies in Arlington National Cemetery. Strict formality, remarkable decorum, and over six hundred acres with row upon row of perfectly arrayed alabaster headstones make it very impressive.
My favorite site was the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial because of his inspirational quotes filled with profound wisdom:
??More than an end to war, we want an end to the beginnings of all wars.?
? ?The structure of world peace cannot be the work of one man, or one party, or one nation. It must be a peace which rests on the cooperative effort of the whole world.?
??Unless the peace that follows recognizes that the whole world is one neighborhood and does justice to the whole human race, the germs of another World War will remain as a constant threat to mankind.?
As my emotions evolved, eagerness mixed with anxiety about what it would be like became awe and respect, then relief, gratitude, and camaraderie.
Memories remembered were shared through tears and laughter as catharsis occurred. During the flight home, our veterans received a final mail call containing letters from family, friends, and school children. The sweetest of all the moving sights was seeing the joy on their faces as they opened satchels filled with notes of gratitude and love. If only all people could experience such validation that their lives have been worthwhile to others.
I never anticipated this opportunity, and going with my dad was an unexpected pleasure. I urge others who are interested, or know someone who is, to contact your county?s office of Veteran Affairs for more information. Being able to enjoy Washington, D.C., and those experiences in a nonpartisan way, simply as Americans, was most pleasant. Our heritage is good and the Honor Flight was a meaningful celebration of our strong American legacy.
? Teri Dickinson, Douds