Honor Flight

The Lodge supports the Greater St. Louis Honor Flight ( https://gslhonorflight.org ) which is a 501 c 3 organization, whose mission is to safely transport America’s most senior military veterans to Washington DC, to experience the memorials built in their honor. Member Tim Brennan ( [email protected] ) was a Guardian on a recent Honor Flight and this is his story.

It was 1 year ago on July 20th I had the honor of being a guardian for the Honor Flight.   I learned of the Honor Flight by attending a learning session at Monsanto, where we watched the film…WOW!  If you didn’t get chills and feel a little choked up while watching this, something is wrong!  From that day on, being a guardian has been on my BUCKET LIST!  If you are not aware of the Honor Flight, I encourage your to google/you tube it.

 My Vet – Tom Vitale/89 years old/Korean Vet/ Lives in St. Ann.

Being a guardian for Tom Vitale was a profound experience.  It was very cool to be able to be a part of a day that was so meaningful to not only the veterans but all involved.  I was very impressed with the organization of the honor flight volunteers and schedule of the day.  It was humbling to be part of such a wonderful day and to witness the reactions of the veterans.    Volunteering for this event has added fuel and fire to continue supporting our Veterans.

A few months ago, I coincidentally recognized Tom’s  vehicle stranded on the side of the road.   Tom’s truck was in need of a tow.  Fortunately, Tom’s old neighbor also recognized Tom’s truck and was able to help with getting a tow called.    I was able to help out by using my AAA roadside tow assistance to offset 90% of this cost and I was happy to contribute covering the rest.   I was also responsible for raising $1500 for the Elks Lodge #9 veterans committee where $200 of this will be donated to Tom to help offset repair costs.  

Being part of the welcome home celebration was an emotional experience that I wish all could witness.   It solidified how taking a day out of my life hopefully made a positive impact on Tom’s life but more importantly, made a positive experience in my life.   I felt fortunate to have been a part of Tom’s day, it was truly an honor!  

Lastly, this experience was made possible due to the essay contest I was fortunate enough to be chosen for all expenses paid experience.   It makes me proud to work for a company that is willing to support our veterans and I am thankful to Bayer for their continued support!   Like the old life adage, you get out of life what you want to get out of life.   Being able to volunteer on such a meaningful day shows just how precious and important it is to make volunteerism a part of one’s life!

My Essay: My Way to Say “Thank You” 

The military is near and dear to my heart, largely because my father is a retired lieutenant Army colonel who served 28 years in active and reserve duties.  My brother is an active colonel in the Army and his dedication to serving our country has truly inspired me to take a more active role in supporting our veterans.

I learned of the Honor Flight by attending a learning session at Monsanto, where we watched the film…WOW!  If you didn’t get chills and feel a little choked up while watching this, something is wrong!  From that day on, being a guardian has been on my BUCKET LIST!

The stats of WWII are truly staggering.  16,000,000 members of armed forces supported this war with an estimated 500,000 surviving members, with 400 dying daily and expected to be extinct within the next 5-10 years.  Learning a part of history from those who experienced it firsthand, what better way than to spend a day with veterans who spanned multiple periods/wars!  I truly believe this will be an experience that will profoundly impact my life.  I cannot think of a better way to support a veteran than to be part of such a special day, not only for the veteran, but also for the guardians.

Taking a more active role in supporting our veterans has led me to join the Elks Lodge # 9 and be an active participant in our Veterans Committee.   I took the lead in organizing a “Kayak with Vet” community awareness event that brought more than 15 local veterans’ organizations together.  I have also personally been responsible for raising $2,000 for our committee.  There is nothing better than to be able to present a show of respect and appreciation through charitable actions and to see the true gratitude and appreciation of the veterans and organizations; it’s hard to beat the feeling of “wow, I/we made a difference.”

Why is this on my bucket list?

I know how a family can be impacted when a loved one is deployed to war.  My brother spent 13 months in Iraq, and similar to many other veterans, what he experienced he rarely talks about.   The old cliché of “I can only imagine what you went through” –  well no, I cannot.   The stories he has shared are hard to fathom are real.  The stress war puts on families and knowing that the phone or doorbell could ring with devastating news of the ultimate sacrifice.  One may not closely know a person who experienced war, but I can assure you it impacts us all in some way!

I would like to end with the conversation my siblings had shortly before my brother deployed.   Over a few tasty beverages, my sister asked the question,  “What happens if you don’t make it back?” Tears come to my eyes as I type, thinking back to that day.   He is getting ready to be deployed, has two kids and one on the way, my sister and I are crying like babies……in true soldier form, in a calm and stoic response, he replies, “Dad and I have talked. I do not want to die, but I believe in my duty to serve. I have an envelope with my wishes for each of you in a safety deposit box.   I hope a year from now I can get those envelopes and burn them. “

I am very thankful for the sacrifices and service of all veterans and know that most who served believed in their duty!   Partaking in the Honor Flight is not only a way to say THANK YOU, but is truly an opportunity to experience history that is here today and will be gone tomorrow.

I very much appreciate the opportunity to submit this essay – GOD BLESS AMERICA!