One month ago, on September 11, Saint Therese at Oxbow Lake resident Roy Whitney had one of the most profound experiences of his life. He was among a group of 80 veterans (and 80 guardians) who traveled to Washington, D.C. on that very special day, as part of “Honor Flight Twin Cities.”
The Honor Flight Network is a nonprofit organization with local chapters throughout the U.S., with its purpose to transport veterans to the war memorial monuments in our nation’s capital.
Roy, an Army Korean War veteran, applied for the flight one year ago and was thrilled to be selected to take part. Joining him on the trip as his guardian, was his daughter Sandy Jernberg, and he said he thoroughly enjoyed doing it with her.
The day began early on 9/11, with a charter flight departing the Twin Cities at 6 a.m. During the flight, they had “mail call,” a traditional military practice in which soldiers assemble to receive mail from a designated person who calls out each recipient’s name. Roy was amazed to receive a sizeable stack of cards and letters (46 in all), from family, friends, Saint Therese friends and others. All of the letters and notes had been gathered by the guardians, in this case Sandy.
He said one of the most special letters was from fellow Oxbow Lake resident, retired pastor and Major General (two-star) Norris Einertson, who wrote a note on his two-star stationery, the first time Norris said he’d used it.
When the plane landed at Reagan National Airport, they were surprised with a “water salute” as the plane approached the gate. The water salute is when water cannons spray water on a plane as a mark of respect and appreciation.
Once inside airport, the group was met by a welcoming committee, and as they walked through the terminal there was spontaneous cheering from both travelers and military personnel in full uniform.
“It was very emotional,” said Roy.
The group then traveled on buses to seven memorials, including the changing of the guard at Arlington National Cemetery. A tour guide on each bus also provided a history of the city as they drove around and they caught glimpses of the U.S. Capitol, the White House, the Pentagon, the Washington Monument and the National Mall.
Roy said it was hard to choose one highlight but said the changing of the guard at Arlington, the Korean War Veterans Memorial and the Air Force Memorial stood out for him.
The veterans received a tee shirt and a biography book with all the attendees’ information; they attended a reunion two weeks later where they saw videos and photos from their trip. They also received a red cap with a pin and a thumb drive covering the full day of events.
Once home in the Twin Cities, the group was again greeted with a large welcoming committee at Terminal 2 Humphrey, including more military personnel in full uniform and people cheering them as they left the terminal.
“I’m almost speechless,” said Roy about the trip. “Just being selected made me feel so great and then to experience the magnitude of the day was something I will never forget. I am forever grateful to everyone who make this trip possible and for the help and assistance I had throughout the day from my daughter.”
About Roy: Originally from Warrens, Wisc., population just over 300, Roy and his wife, Betty, moved to the Twin Cities where they raised their three children. Roy worked at Cargill for 42 years, finishing his tenure as Facilities Manager at its Minnetonka headquarters.