AUSTIN — “We can’t all be heroes. Some of us have to stand on the curb and clap as they go by.”
These words, once spoken by Will Rogers, are the motto of the Honor Flight Network, a nonprofit organization created to honor America’s veterans for their many sacrifices, by transporting them to Washington, D.C., to visit their memorials.
Fifty World War II veterans from Travis, Williamson, Hays, Bastrop and Caldwell counties flew to visit the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., from the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport on Oct. 9.
Fourteen soldiers assigned to Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, spent time with the veterans before they left the airport.
“It goes without saying we would not be here without (veterans),” said Allen Bergeron, chairman of the Austin chapter of the Honor Flight Network. “I can’t thank (veterans) enough.”
The Honor Flights began in the 2004 to 2005 time frame when retired Air Force Col. Earl Morse started flying a few World War II veterans at a time. “The Honor Flights soon became a national movement,” Bergeron said.
Starting out with only three or four World War II veterans, the Honor Flights have now taken more than 85,000 veterans to Washington, D.C., to see their memorial, Bergeron said.
“It is great to be going to visit the memorial,” said 94-year-old Isabelle Cook, a World War II Army nurse and veteran. Cook worked as an Army nurse for three years during World War II, serving in North Africa, Italy and France.
“I think it’s wonderful that the younger soldiers are here, just to see them here and how helpful they’ve been,” Cook said of the soldiers’ assistance. “I’m very appreciative of it. I don’t think they quite understand how much it means for them to be here.”
The assistance of the younger generation of soldiers meant a lot to the veterans, but they aren’t the only ones who were grateful to be there.
“It is an honoring experience to help and talk to these veterans,” said 2nd Lt. Rob Wilson, an infantry officer assigned to the battalion. “They have done so much, and sadly you don’t know how long these men and women will be around. It’s always a great experience to talk to veterans and get younger soldiers involved.”
Bergeron expressed his gratitude to the men and women for their sacrifices. “Again, I can’t thank you enough, from the bottom of my heart, thank you so much.”