Honor in Flight
They met as strangers, not connected by family, friends or even generational commonality.
Anna Rogers, a granddaughter of a World War II B17 tail-gunner, met veteran Jim Simpson, who spent 32 years in the Navy including time as a submarine captain.
In September, they boarded an airplane together in Atlanta and made their way to Washington, D.C., for an Honor Flight with two dozen other veterans and their “guardian angels.”
Honor Flight is a program that flies military veterans and an accompanying guardian angel by commercial flight to the nation’s capital — at no cost to the hero. Together, they saw monuments and memorials built in the veterans’ honor.
Oftentimes, veterans are paired with people they have never met, as was the case with Anna, a P&C underwriting analyst in Dunwoody, Ga., and Jim.
“We hit it off from the beginning,” says Anna. “My father-in-law is retired from 20 years in the Navy. He was on a sister submarine that Jim was on. We had so much to talk about all day.”
Once on the ground in Washington, the veterans received a presidential welcome complete with red-carpet treatment at the airport and a police escort to the sights.
“There were hundreds of people there to meet us,” says Jim. “They put us on a bus to go to the memorials, and we spent the day together doing that. Anna took very good care of me.”
Most of the veterans on their trip served in Vietnam and Korea. Four were World War II veterans.
Anna says she clung to every story she heard.
“Most veterans don’t open up about their service experiences, because they think most don’t want to hear it,” says Anna, whose brother serves in the U.S. Army. “But they know someone is with them on this flight for that very reason, so they shared so much. I heard incredible stories I will never forget.”
The day began at 4:30 a.m. They returned home at 11 p.m.
“We just ran off adrenaline, happiness and excitement,” she says.
The night before the flight, Anna met Jim and his wife for dinner and looked over old pictures from Jim’s service. They have stayed in touch since the trip and both families have been able to meet each other.
“I’m sure most guardians haven’t done that for their veteran, Jim says. “She has been above and beyond.”
“What I wasn’t expecting was how much of a deep bond I would create with these veterans,” Anna says. “It was special and life-changing and has made me even more proud to be an American.”