Endangered Species

It was my 2nd Washington DC trip.  I was there with G.T.’s 5th grade class.  I had gone just a few years before with Eason’s 5th grade class.  Any field trips that required overnight stays… I got the nod.  I had also done the 4-H field trips for both of them also. I actually didn’t mind.  In fact I cherish those field trips with my boys.

Any parent who’s ever been on an extensive and week-long field trip can certainly relate to the hectic schedule and responsibility of being a chaperone.  Washington D.C. is such an amazing place to visit.  Parents and kids alike love the museums and monuments.  In fact, I’d go again if given the opportunity.

G.T.  and I were at the World War II Memorial.  I had seen it shortly after it had opened on my first trip with Eason.  The teachers were rounding everyone up to go to the next stop when a huge bus was pulling in.  I noticed a group of older men starting to disembark from the bus.  As everyone else walked away, I asked G.T. and the other boys in my group to stay.  I knew this was something I wanted my son to see.  Something I wanted him to participate in.

It turns out, the bus was full of WWII veterans.  A non-profit group was flying thousands of veterans from around the country into Washington to see the memorial.  These were men who had never seen it and in some cases had never even been to Washington D.C.

One by one, they filed out of the bus… and one by one I shook each of their hands… as did my son and the other boys in my group.  “Thank you for your service“, I said with every handshake.  By the 4th or 5th one, I could see tears in their eyes.  This made me swell tears as well.  This was contagious… even to G.T. and his classmates.

Soon others joined in.  Before long, there were probably more than one hundred people at the monument who had lined up to shake these American Hero’s hands.  People were cheering.  It was truly a remarkable moment.

As we walked away, I turned to the boys and explained how these men were part of the greatest generation.  I asked them each to remember this day.  I explained that by the time they have families of their own, there won’t be many WWII veterans left to shake hands with.

Every day, approximately 300 or more of our WWII veterans die.  To say that they are an endangered species is an understatement.  Soon they will all be gone.  I was so proud when G.T. talked about this just the other day during a phone conversation.  He says it’s something he will always remember.  I’m not sure who it meant more to… the veterans or those of us privileged enough to thank them… and shake their hands.