Guest Post: Saying Thank You to our Military & Veterans

            This summer my AHG troop VA0428 participated in some really neat service projects.  I want to share them not to brag about what we did but instead to spread the word about some great opportunities.  Both opportunities are about honoring our military or veterans.  You do not need a group to participate in these opportunities, though prior coordination with the people that run the event is necessary.
            Operation Welcome Home (OWH).  Baltimore Washington International airport (BWI) is a major hub for returning military from their deployments.  The military that come through here are touching US soil for the first time since they left for their deployment.  Many will then make connecting flights to go to their home bases all over the US.  Some of them have their homes in the MD/DC/VA area.  OWH gives the returning military a hero’s welcome home.  There are two ways to help: 1. send thank you cards to OWH for them to distribute, or 2. go to BWI to volunteer.  When you volunteer for an OWH event, you help with three things: 1. decorate the airport (OWH has decorations), 2. assemble goody bags for troops, and 3. greet, cheer, and thank military members as they come out of the gate.
            This quote says it all:
"OWHMD Volunteers:
The greatest moment of my 7-month deployment to Afghanistan was being greeted by you at BWI. The best gift for a returning servicemember is a simple "Thank You" and a handshake.   You'll never know how much your time spent at the airport means to us, but please accept my deepest appreciation for what you do."
(signed) LtCol James H., USAF, Phoenix, Arizona"

For more information or to find a date to go to a welcome home greeting, please go to their website: http://www.operationwelcomehomemd.org

            Honor Flight.  Honor Flight’s mission is to fly veterans back to DC to visit their war memorial.  One thousand World War II veterans die every day.  The majority of Honor Flight missions fly into Reagan Airport.  The veterans fly in to DC in the morning, go see the war memorials and Arlington National Cemetery and then fly back home that evening.  What the local Honor Flight does is give these veterans a surprise hero’s greeting when they arrive in DC.  These veterans served our country and then came home and went back to regular life without any thank you.
            In June when we went to participate with Honor Flight at Reagan, we welcomed 90 World War II and Korean War veterans.  The looks on their faces when they walked out of the gate was priceless.  They had no idea we’d be there, cheering for them, and thanking them.  Not one of the 90-80 year olds had dry eyes.  We gave our full names and birthdates to the point of contact a few days ahead of time so that we could go inside security to participate in the gate greeting.  It was definitely worth it!  You may bring patriotic thank you posters and thank you cards to give out.  After the gate greeting, we went outside to wave to their buses as they left.  Later a couple families went to the memorials to visit more with the veterans.  The veterans were extremely appreciative. 
            This is a great experience for people of any age.  The organizers were excited when I told them I homeschooled.  They said they had wanted to tap into homeschool groups.  Unfortunately during the public school year, they often have no one show up for the surprise gate greetings for the Honor Flights that are during the week.
            There is a great movie, “Honor Flight” that documents an Honor Flight from Wisconsin.  In it, you hear from World War II veterans about what Honor Flight meant to them.  I would highly recommend watching the movie to help your children understand the importance and meaning of this.  For information on the movie:  http://www.honorflightthemovie.com
            Honor Flights take place Aug-Nov and then start back up in the spring.  For information on participating in an Honor Flight event, please go to: http://honorflightdca.wordpress.com
Carrie Kilareski is a local military wife, mom, and homeschooler.  Thanks for the great information, Carrie! 

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