May 6, 2014

Elsie Mason

Mark (my nephew) met me at 3 AM to ride to the Clearwater Airport.  Now it is about 4 AM got out of the truck.  Four big guys meet us at the entrance.  This was the first time I heard “thank you for your service”.  Mark took a photo of me in between these guys.  I looked like a little midget next to these big strong guys.  Had breakfast at the airport and met my guardian, Bill.  He was with me the whole trip…a very interesting fellow.  We both enjoyed each other’s company.

There were more men vets than women vets.  We had 80 altogether and each one had a guardian so that made 160 to board the aircraft.  There were 5 crew members so that made for 165 on board.  I never saw such a big plane.  It was about a 2 hour flight to the Baltimore Washington Airport.  It was a nice flight.  We got off and boarded buses.  There were three buses.  Now it is about 6 AM and we are on our way.

First Stop:   Arlington Cemetery Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the Changing of the Guard.  This was a sight to see.  Stayed here and got up front of all the wheel chairs so I could see.  Got photos.  There were 2 guards that changed about every half hour.  We were on our way and running late.

Next Stop:  Ira Jima.  15 minutes here and we could stay on the bus or get off for photos.  Bill got off but I did not.  Got my photos from my window.

Next Stop:  Air Force Memorial.  The driver told us about it as it was not near the bus route.  He was very well versed and could drive with one hand and talk on the mike to us on route where we could not stop.

Next Stop:  WWII Memorial.  Had lunch at a little park before we arrive at the WWII Memorial.  A lot to see here.  Took a group photo.  A lot of walking but very interesting.

Next Stop:  Lincoln, Korean and Viet Nam Memorials.  This was near the end of our sightseeing.  Getting late.  I had to use a wheel chair here as the memorials were scattered.  A first for me.  Bill was my pusher and did not complain.

Got back on the bus to leave for Baltimore Airport at about 7:30 PM.  What a full day – exciting, yes, tired, yes but glad I could go to see all of these memorials with such a group.  Back to the Clearwater Airport about 9 PM.  Had supper there.  A great flight – a great day.  Before we landed, they had mail call on the plane and I got this big white envelope and inside were a lot of cards and notes from folks I did not even know and yes, from the four Senators from Florida.  Kept opening my mail and now I see some with stamps on them.  Now I know…family.  A nice surprise.  My sis-in-law and her daughter from Vermont; my 2 grand kids from NY; and Mark and his family from Tampa.  Will surprises ever end?

Got off the plane and was walking toward the exit door.  A long walk and all along the way people on the side lines garbing my hand to say thank you for your service.  My hand got tired but I did not quit.  Some would grab my hand, give me a hug and I obliged.  Tired, yes, but really did not think about it.  Still excited and so blessed.  Finally I could see the exit and there was Mark and his family.  Yes grand kids waiting for me.  Had flowers for me and all smiles.

Got on our way and got home at 11 PM.  What a day!  I shall remember this day for a long time.  Glad I was able to go.  It is really something to see.  A lot of good memories and met a few more friends.  And now hope you can all go in the future to D.C. a beautiful place to see with a lot of history.

Elsie Mason, Army (WAC)

Served 11 years in both theaters

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