Next week will be our nation’s 237th birthday. Today in America, it’s easy to get caught up in politics. We oftentimes look at the economy, the discrimination that is (very sadly) still present, and the number of people out of work and complain and gripe about our government and about how things are as compared to how we would like them to be in a perfect world.
Last night, however, I was given the opportunity to recognize and help honor a group of men who literally put their lives on the line for this great nation. My grandpa, Jack Vorbeck, served in the US Army during World War II and in the US Navy during the Korean War. Yesterday, he was honored by the Greater St. Louis Honor Flight, which is an organization that safely transports WWII and Korean War veterans to Washington, D.C. to see the memorials dedicated to them there. My cousin accompanied my grandpa as his personal “guardian,” and my uncle was lucky enough to go as well because he works for Monsanto, who partially sponsors guardians for other veterans who may not have anyone who can go with them. The veterans and their volunteer guardians left St. Louis on a Southwest flight bound for D.C. early yesterday morning. According to my uncle, who told us about the trip when they arrived home, they were able to see the WWII Memorial, in addition to the Vietnam Wall, Arlington National Cemetery, and the Lincoln and Korean War Memorials. I was lucky enough to make what my dad considers to be an “American pilgrimage” to D.C. when I was a freshman in high school. In fact, it was my spring break trip with my family. I had an awesome time in D.C., so knowing that my grandpa, who diligently served our country in not only one but two wars, was able to see some of these amazing sights makes me very happy and proud.
When the veterans and their guardians arrived home to Lambert airport, they were greeted by a tunnel of American flags, posters, balloons, and, most importantly, a cheering crowd full of family, friends, and others who came to show their thanks and respect. I couldn’t help but think of the end of “White Christmas” when General Waverly walked into the barn and saw all of the men who had been in his division. It was a great sight, and I couldn’t help but shed a tear or two. I was just so proud of my grandpa and of the other veterans who put their lives on the line for us. To paraphrase what the evening’s announcer said, those men literally came home from the war, put away their things, and started working. For me, I feel as though they finally got the “welcome home” that they deserve.
As the back of a commemorative tshirt my grandpa received says, “If you can read this, thank a teacher. And if you can read this in English, thank a veteran.” Be sure to thank a veteran this Fourth of July. Because, without them, we may not be living the lives we know and love today.
Know a WWII or Korean War veteran? Sign them up for an Honor Flight or learn more about the program here.