The song, America the Beautiful, had its 3rd verse changed in 1913 to include the following lyrics:
O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife.
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life
Only 26 years later, the United States found itself involved in World War II, moving American society to prove the truth of those words.
I recently had the opportunity to attend the Utah Honor Flight, a program that takes veterans to see the memorials dedicated for the service those men and women gave in the name of freedom in past wars.
For me, this was an occasion to be surrounded by the men and women who, through their sacrifices, sealed as truth the 3rd verse of America the Beautiful. Particularly exciting was that I would be spending time with my Grandpa, Don Bell, a veteran who served in the Korean War.
Benefitting the Community
My grandpa, like many other veterans, doesn’t like to speak much about his military service. I would chalk this up to trauma, but not having been through their experiences, I can’t be sure.
Whatever the reason, it is sad that so many stories, however difficult, are not being shared. As the “Greatest Generation” passes into history, many of their experiences do not.
Being on the Honor Flight though brought something out of these veterans. For the first time, my grandpa, and the veterans around him, were willing to share their experiences.
For example, sitting next to the Korean Memorial my grandpa recounted to me how the tank in front of him drove over a land mine, nearly resulting in tragedy. He shared what it was like to be the only soldier from Utah in his battalion. Most importantly, my grandpa helped me understand why it was worth it to sacrifice time and energy to help “people he never knew” achieve the dream that is democracy.
In that moment patriotism burned in my chest and my resolve to strengthen my community increased.
The community benefits when stories of heroism and selflessness are shared.
Benefitting the Veteran
When the Honor Flight disembarked the airplane at BWI International Airport we were met in the terminal by a standing ovation. Tears filled eyes as veterans passed the throng to audible expressions of gratitude from strangers.
I asked one of the veterans on our flight, “Have you ever experienced anything like this?” The answer was a simple and emotional, “No.”
At one point a Korean women stepped out to thank a veteran wearing a hat that said “Korea Veteran.” In sum, she was thanking the man for giving her the life that she had.
The therapy provided in moments like that make this trip more than worthwhile for veterans.
You Can Help Other Veterans Have this Experience
You can help veterans get to the memorials that their sacrifices helped to build. To learn how you can contribute, visit www.utahhonorflight.org.
About the Author
Matt Lusty oversees the marketing and communications efforts of the Salt Lake Chamber.