Sunday mornings are always perfect for going off track and stepping away from photography. The house is quiet. I’m always up early, Sheila is often still asleep and Molly the Wonder Dog is usually curled up at my feet. There are rarely emails to respond to and it becomes the perfect environment for me to just write about something that’s relevant, but more to life than photography.
Well, here’s the scene this morning…I’m in D.C. sharing a hotel room with my Dad. He’s going to be 92 in two weeks and we spent yesterday as part of Honor Flight, honoring his service in World War II. Together with a hundred or so of his “buddies” it was a day of tribute and a lot of emotional moments.
So, today’s Sunday Morning Reflections is going to be pretty personal. I continue to have an amazing career and it’s been filled with incredible people, events and moments I cherish, but nothing compares with just being a kid…Ralph Cohen’s kid!
I’m feeling incredibly proud of my Dad. There aren’t a whole lot of guys my age who still have their parents around, let alone enjoy being with them and being able to make the trip from Tampa to D.C.
Like so many veterans, Dad never really talked much about the war. I’d get a story or two over the years, always the funny stuff, but rarely anything poignant.
My favorite was the time they were looking for musicians and Dad volunteered. He was a trumpet player and anticipated some terrific light duty assignment like playing in a band. NOT – he wound up moving pianos for a week for a USO show!
Like so many guys his age he enlisted in 1942 ready to serve his country. He was headed towards being a pilot in the Army Air Corps when they discovered he had a perforated ear drum. Flying wasn’t in the cards, but the Army Air Corps still was. Off he went to radio school. His tour in the Asia/Pacific kept him in communications in the flight tower.
I picked up a new story this week when he was asked if he ever got to meet General MacArthur. "No, but I got close when I brought his plane in once."
No need to cover more of his background for this blog post, because the real story of these veterans comes in trying to describe the comradery between them.
This is a very special group of Americans, who are becoming even more elite as they age. There's a statement on Honor Flight's home page that says it all...
"According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, an estimated 640 WWII veterans die each day. Our time to express our thanks to these brave men and women is running out."
The youngest a WWII veteran could be today is 88 and Honor Flight's sole purpose is to recognize their contribution to our country. As everyone on the trip talked and shared a story here and there, you could see this amazing bond developing.
They started their military journey at pretty much all the same age, most of them in their early twenties. They survived the war and now they're surviving life. They have families, grand children and great grand children. Many, like Dad, are without spouses, almost as if they’d gone full circle and are now alone, back to the beginning. But, not one would have traded the experience of WWII and their ability and the privilege of fighting for their country.
My military experience is non-existent. I was in the first round of the lottery during Viet Nam. My number was 297 and I was never called. I have a lot of friends who served and a few who we lost, but for me the military never played a direct role in my life. However, that doesn't change the impact of each memorial Honor Flight took us to or the pride you can't help but feel hanging out with this group of heroes. There’s a reason Tom Brokaw referred to Dad’s generation as the "Greatest Generation" and I had a front row seat being with them this weekend.
Yesterday’s experience was like being a kid at a super heroes convention. While the years may have taken a few inches off Dad’s height and he's a whole lot shorter than me today, nobody ever stood taller as he solemnly toured the WWII memorial with his peers...a group of giants.
Gear Box: Panasonic LUMIX GH3 with the LUMIX G 12-35mm zoom.
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