On 3 October 2017 I  had the privilege, pleasure, and honor to travel with 80 fellow Veterans to our Nations Capital, along with a number of EIHF Volunteers, and Guardians.
This was a day that I will always remember.  It exceeded my highest expectations, thanks to the Sponsors who funded the flight, and all the caring and sharing EIHF Volunteers that so generously give their time, effort, and talent to support this remarkable program.  The planning, organizing, coordinating the flight and all aspects of the day’s activities were done to perfection and ensured that all the Veterans thoroughly enjoyed the day in comfort and safety.  Handling 80 Vets , most past 80 years old and some with special needs is no simple or easy task.  It was amazing that everything went so smooth and each of the volunteers patiently and professionally did their job with a smile, obviously very much enjoying helping and honoring us Vets.
During the day I had the opportunity to visit with a number of my fellow Veterans and they unanimously shared my feelings that this was a day that they will always remember. It was a day of mixed emotions.  Mostly a day full of joy and comradery but also some sadness when visiting the War Memorials. I am a Vietnam Vet and four of my former squadron mate’s name appear on the wall. It was also touching to visit The Arlington National Cemetery and see the Changing of the Guard.  My wife and I have chosen Arlington to be our final resting place.
I would also like to commend the Guide/Narrator on our (blue) bus.  He did a superb job pointing  out noteworthy buildings and sites and the historical background and/or significance associated therewith.  He was also very entertaining with a good sense of humor.
Appreciation must also be bestowed on the Guardians  who volunteered to assist the Veterans, were with us from beginning to end, and patiently and tenderly looked out for our care and safety.
Mail Call was another touching moment with unexpected letters and notes from family, friends, school children, and caring others thanking us for our service and wishing us their best. Mail call was another great idea.
What capped off this wonderful and memorable day was to experience the incredible greeting us Vets received from the hundreds of Cedar Rapids Area Citizens who came to the Airport late in the evening to honor and thank us for our service. I had the pleasure of serving 27 years in the Marine Corps and served in Vietnam twice. Never in my wildest dreams did I envision that  80 Vets, most of us 80+ years old, would be so warmly and respectfully honored for our service.  This greeting by so many caring, patriotic, and beautiful people ranks as one of the most heart touching moments of my life. There is a saying in the Corps that “Marines don’t weep tears they sweat tears”.  Well, I found some moisture collecting around my eyes when I walked by the cheering and thankful crowd, and it wasn’t sweat.
In contrast, when returning from Vietnam in October of 1971,  we were cautioned that if we transited through San Francisco International Airport in uniform we may be subject to harassment by the war protesters.
When I was eating at a Des Moines Restaurant a few moths ago I met a Vet wearing an Honor Flight Cap.  I asked him if he enjoyed the Honor Flight.  He said it was wonderful and told me that he went on the Flight out of Cedar Rapids  He strongly recommended that if I had a choice, get the Eastern Iowa Flight because the word is out that it is the best.  I live in Pleasant Hill near Des Moines and when I received a call from Sherry from EITH. saying that I was selected to go on the Honor Flight out of Cedar Rapids, I was very pleased even though it was a 2 hour trip to Cedar Rapids.  My daughter Julie was my Guardian and she thoroughly enjoyed  Honor Flight, as well.
Thanks from the bottom of my heart for providing me and 80 Vets with a Day that we will always remember.
Please convey my sincere and grateful thanks to all the volunteers that so generously give of their time, effort and talent to give us Vets something we will always remember. Our thanks to Rockwell Collins and all the other sponsors for honoring the Vets of Iowa, as well.
My heartfelt thanks and love go to all the citizens who came out in the late hours to give us Vets such a wonderful, memorable greeting on our return the evening of Tuesday, 3 October.
Cedar Rapids area Citizens, you are the greatest.
Sincerely,
Lyell Holmes
Colonel USMC (Ret)