Coast Guard welcomes American heroes on Honor Flight to Washington D.C.

Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer David Donohue (right), a reservist with Sector Baltimore, smiles as he welcomes World War II Army veteran Donald Schneider to Washington, D.C., Aug. 18, 2013. Donohue and other reservists with Sector Baltimore were at Reagan National Airport to welcome 25 veterans who arrived from Florida on an Honor Flight arranged by the nonprofit Honor Flight Network. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Lisa Ferdinando

Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer David Donohue (right), a reservist with Sector Baltimore, smiles as he welcomes World War II Army veteran Donald Schneider to Washington, D.C., Aug. 18, 2013. Donohue and other reservists with Sector Baltimore were at Reagan National Airport to welcome 25 veterans who arrived from Florida on an Honor Flight arranged by the nonprofit Honor Flight Network. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Lisa Ferdinando

Story by PA3 Lisa Ferdinando

On a Sunday morning in our nation’s capital, amid the hustle and bustle of Washington’s Reagan National Airport, Coast Guard reservists from Sector Baltimore eagerly await a group of American heroes to arrive.

Then cheering broke out: the veterans from World War II and the Korean War, flown in on an Honor Flight from Orlando, were now in sight.

Twenty-five Coast Guardsmen clapped and cheered with flag-waving members of the public, Aug. 18, for a surprise welcome for the men, who were making their first journey to Washington to see the monuments for the wars they fought in decades ago.

“This was the most wonderful thing, it just brought tears to our eyes, to think that you would all take the time out of your busy schedules to spend time with us,” said Donald Schneider, a World War II Army veteran.

Reservists with Coast Guard Sector Baltimore and a Sea Scout pose at Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C., before welcoming an Honor Flight from Orlando carrying 25 war veterans, Aug. 18, 2013. The flight was arranged by the Honor Flight Network, which brings veterans, with priority for World War II and terminally ill veterans, to the nation's capital to see the monuments for the wars they fought in decades ago. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Lisa Ferdinando

Reservists with Coast Guard Sector Baltimore and a Sea Scout pose at Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C., before welcoming an Honor Flight from Orlando carrying 25 war veterans, Aug. 18, 2013. The flight was arranged by the Honor Flight Network, which brings veterans, with priority for World War II and terminally ill veterans, to the nation’s capital to see the monuments for the wars they fought in decades ago. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Lisa Ferdinando

A retired staff sergeant, Schneider, who served in Normandy and northern France, was especially glad to see the younger members of the Coast Guard.

“We were that same age when we traveled through our journey, and they’re beginning their journey,” he said. “I hope that their journey in many ways will be beneficial to them and not as chaotic as we endured.”

For his part, representing the newest in the Coast Guard, Seaman Robert Hunter, fresh out of boot camp, said he was glad to meet and pay tribute to the American heroes.

“It was an honor to be able to greet everyone that served before us, just to see the smile on their faces as they came down the aisle, it was great,” said Hunter.

The Honor Flight Network brings senior veterans to Washington free of charge to see, for the first time, the monuments for the wars they fought in, with priority given to veterans from World War II and veterans who are terminally ill. Most of the veterans on the flight were from World War II.

Lt. Jennifer Osetek, who helped organize the Coast Guard participation with Lt. Casey Johnson, said Coast Guard members are very interested in doing more Honor Flights.

“It’s a great way for us to interact with the veterans from the different services, and for us to be able to reach out to the veterans of past wars and say thank you,” said Osetek.

“It’s also important that people appreciate the contribution that the Coast Guard makes because often the Coast Guard is overlooked,” she said. “This is a good way for people to appreciate the sacrifices that Coast Guard veterans make as well.”

The Honor Flight volunteers were all smiles when they talked about the Sunday morning welcoming ceremony.

Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class John McNellis, a reservist with Sector Baltimore, welcomes a World War II veteran to Washington, D.C., Aug. 18, 2013. McNellis and other reservists with Sector Baltimore were at Reagan National Airport to welcome 25 veterans who arrived from Orlando on an Honor Flight arranged by the nonprofit Honor Flight Network. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Lisa Ferdinando

Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class John McNellis, a reservist with Sector Baltimore, welcomes a World War II veteran to Washington, D.C., Aug. 18, 2013. McNellis and other reservists with Sector Baltimore were at Reagan National Airport to welcome 25 veterans who arrived from Orlando on an Honor Flight arranged by the nonprofit Honor Flight Network. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Lisa Ferdinando

“This Coast Guard contingent is the largest single service group I have ever seen here for the honor flight,” said Navy Vietnam War veteran Bob Beebe, who volunteers at Reagan airport for the Honor Flight Network.

Such a show by the military is important, he said: “We want the senior veterans to see that they’re still remembered by their younger brothers and sisters.”

Lt. Tara Collins spoke with a World War II veteran who was crying as he remembered the friends who didn’t make it home with him. That brought back memories of her time in Iraq, she said, and she was able to bond with him.

It is important to honor all veterans, she said, and give that same respect to the next generation of veterans, from the Korean War and the Vietnam War, who will be making the journey to Washington.

 “It’s an amazing experience,” said Collins, who has welcomed a number of Honor Flights.

“It gives me chills every time I do it. It brings tears to my eyes. It’s truly an honor to be able to welcome these gentlemen who are coming here for the first time,” she said.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Cady Spraul, an operations specialist, said it is important to come out and show the veterans how much their service means to the country. Welcoming them like this means so much to them, she said.

“This is the second time I’ve done an Honor Flight,” she said. “It is so touching to be able to honor them when they’re coming to do this flight that’s special for them.”

The greatest thing, said Seaman Danny Shanahan, is being able to put on the Coast Guard uniform and show respect for the members who have served in the decades past.

“I’m just glad I could do this, to show my pride of the nation,” he said.

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