Resident Spotlights

Russell’s Honor Flight and homecoming celebration

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Today, on Veterans Day, we honor U.S. military veterans, especially those among us here at Presbyterian Homes & Services — employees as well as the people we serve.

By Judy Thomas, office manager at Fairway Knoll in Germantown, Wis.

Russell lives in our memory care community and is one of about a dozen proud and humble veterans who live at Fairway Knoll in Germantown, Wisconsin.  I learned Russell was going on an Honor Flight when, 10 days before Russell was to leave, his son told me they were expecting an important package from Spee-Dee delivery. He then went on to tell me what the package contained. Russell’s Honor Flight jacket! Knowing the importance of the package, when it arrived, I hand delivered it to Russell and notified his son.

You might be asking, what is the Honor Flight?

The Honor Flight Network is a national nonprofit organization whose mission is to celebrate America’s veterans by inviting them to share in a day of honor at our nation’s memorials. Trips are sponsored by donations to the Honor Flight.

Participation in an Honor Flight gives veterans the opportunity to share this momentous occasion with other comrades, remember the fallen, and share their stories and experiences with other veterans.

The day is long — leaving home sometimes as early as 4 a.m. to arrive on time for a predawn departure and returning to the airport as late as 10 p.m.

Russell’s flight had 149 proud veterans onboard from all branches of the service. One hundred forty-six Vietnam vets, two Korean War vets and one WWII vet. Russell is a Vietnam-era veteran.

Going on an Honor Flight is an extremely special, “honorable” event and is cause for great celebration. Family and friends flock to the airport to greet the veterans when they return from their full day in Washington, D.C. Bands play. Flags wave. Solemn salutes are exchanged. Grateful hugs are freely given. Tears flow.

Fairway Knoll wanted to share in this special celebration! One of our staff greeted Russell at the airport with a “Russell, Welcome Home” sign. We made another “Russell, Welcome Home” sign that many residents and staff signed. Along with a large standing flag, the sign was posted in the lobby at the front entrance. A “Welcome Home Russell” slide played on the community TV screen. The route to Russell’s apartment was lined with patriotic balloons and signs.

In addition to the Flag, signs and balloons, when Russell arrived back at Fairway at 10:30 p.m., he was greeted by about a dozen residents who waited up for him. Russell was overcome with humility and gratitude.

Russell said numerous times, “I don’t deserve this.” Yes, you do, Russell. Yes, you do. Thank you for your service, sir.

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