Every few months, at zero dark thirty, T.F. Green Airport is transformed into a dramatic patriotic scene with firefighter escorts, police honor guards, Scout troops, and cheering spectators. Saturday, April 6, was no exception. The transformation was due to the first Rhode Island All Female Honor Flight Victory.
The crew of 44 veterans departed Rhode Island to spend the entire day in Washington, D.C. The group consisted of veterans from World War II to the Global War on Terrorism, with the oldest veteran 96 years old and the youngest 35 years old.
There are certain events in life that one can prepare for. I had attended several flights in the past to salute my fellow veterans, so I had a general idea of what to expect. But nothing could ever prepare me for this memorable event, as I was the veteran.
Our day began with our arrival at the local firehouse on Post Road, Warwick. As we approached, the first thing I noticed was the huge storm flag that was beautifully displayed, waving freely with the slight breeze. It was difficult to not ignore the last-minute preparations for our trip. One could easily feel the excitement, the energy and the electricity of this very special group. This day was all about honoring women warriors.
Upon arrival to T.F. Green we anxiously awaited for the cue to march into the terminal. We were ready. As our WWII sisters began to enter we could clearly hear the cheering and applause from all the spectators that had gathered that fine morning. It was such a beautiful scene to see so many people who had gathered for us, Honor Flight Victory — 44 female veterans.
This beautiful reception would be repeated several times throughout our entire day. We are so grateful to Chief George S. Farrell (retired) of the R.I. Fire Chiefs Association for making this event possible. However, without the generous donation from the General Federation of Women's Clubs of Rhode Island, this flight would not have been possible. Their donation covered the expenses of every veteran and guardian.
Upon arrival at Reagan National Airport we were greeted by Lt. Gen. Nadja West, 44th U.S. Army surgeon general and commanding general of the U.S. Army Medical Command, along with community members. Our first stop was the WWII memorial. At that location we were greeted by retired Sens. Bob and Elizabeth Dole, Sen. Jack Reed, Sen. Maggie Hassan, and Lt. Gen. Jacqueline D. Van Ovost, director of staff, Headquarters Air Force, the Pentagon, along with other well-wishers.
Our visit in D.C. allowed us to visit the numerous war memorials. At each location we all had a story to tell. One could truly feel the comaraderie within our group of women warriors. I have difficulty in finding the correct words to express my thoughts and emotions that we all experienced this grand day. As one of my sisters stated, “I feel validated.” Yes, we were finally validated with this outpouring of love and support in making this trip possible. Without females in the military our mission would not be accomplished.
Our return trip to T.F. Green later that evening again presented the dramatic patriotic scene at the terminal. “God Bless America, land that I love.…” We were all so surprised to see so many people to welcome us home. We hugged, we kissed, and we cried, in expressing our gratitude toward their demonstration of patriotism in honoring us, the first R.I. All Female Honor Flight.
Although I was in the company of 43 veterans I also carried my father’s dog tags with me, Staff Sgt. Isaias V. Vasquez, 164th, Americal Division, WWII. I also have to thank my guardia,n Nancy Read Pirnie, USMC, for being my guardian on this momentous day.
As of 2005, a total of 200,588 veterans have benefited from these Honor Flights through 131 nationwide hubs. Your tax-deductible donations will continue to make these flights possible and can be sent to Chief George S. Farrell (retired), chairman, Rhode Island Fire Chiefs Honor Flight Hub, P.O. Box 28132, Providence, RI 02908.
Future Honor Flights are: Honor Flight Whiskey, sponsored by McShawns Pub Back Porch Veterans Association, Cranston, on June 1; and Honor Flight X-Ray, sponsored by Pappas Physical and Hand Therapy, Johnston and North Providence, on Sept. 14. Thank you Honor Flight for recognizing our nation’s veterans. Thank you Chief Farrell and staff and the General Federation of Women’s Clubs of Rhode Island for making Honor Flight Victory possible.