Editor’s note: Princeton resident Elaine Russell will be accompanying her father on his Honor Flight trip to Washington, D.C. The following guest editorial includes Russell’s thoughts prior to her trip. Later in October, Russell will follow up with the BCR and tell of her thoughts after they return from their Honor Flight.
In 41 days he would be 83 years old, and seeing him sitting there, one would never know of his disabilities until it was time to shake hands. Even the fact he is sitting in a wheelchair does not fully reveal the extent of a lack of the mobility that once allowed him the freedom to do what he loved most ... farming. But in November 2008 his body failed him and illness struck, paralyzing his right side but certainly not his zest for life.
So when he asked if I would consider traveling to Washington, D.C., as his guardian for the Honor Flight Springfield on Oct. 16, it was easy to accept this honor for one of our Korean War vets. Hence, the paperwork begins.
The goal is that the veteran pays nothing nor does nothing but show up for the flight. As guardian, you are the first in an unbelievable lineup of individuals to show this veteran the appreciation they deserved those many years ago. There are surprises along the way the guardian must assist with, so I am prepared, whereas the veteran is overwhelmed. These are those brief moments where you see the pain they endured whether emotional or physical while serving their country. During guardian training, you are warned of these moments and how to deal with them.
The guardian is also warned ... it will be a long day! You are not going on a vacation. You have a very important job to do. Take care of your veteran’s every need. It will be a 17-hour day beginning at 4:45 a.m. and hopefully ending by 9:30 p.m. This is not a fashion flight, so wear comfortable everything. You are not visiting a Food Channel set. The food is boxed lunches eaten in the bus en route to your next stop. Snacks and water are always available. Never, ever leave your veteran. It is their day!
I am very prepared to take care of this very special veteran.
So yet another thank you to my veteran. You not only survived those years so very long ago serving your country, but you also managed to raise a family on a very successful fifth generation farm in Central Illinois. It has been and will continue to be an honor to travel with you on journeys such as this Honor Flight, to reminiscence with you about days gone by, and to share with you all the important things in your life.
So if it’s alright with you, I am going to call this our ‘Daddy-Daughter Honor Flight’!!!
All My Love, Elaine
My father’s name is Raymond Keith. He lives in Mason City, Illinois in the home he was born in, and I can’t wait to go on this flight with him!