On November 4th, a group of Komatsu Mining Corp employees set off on a very important and honorable mission. This group was part of a contingent of volunteers present at General Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee there to cheer on 151 veterans as the embarked on a Stars and Stripes Honor Flight to Washington D.C.
The Stars and Stripes Honor Flight is part of the National Honor Flight network which got its start in May of 2005. Six small planes flew out of Springfield, Ohio taking twelve World War II veterans on a visit to the memorial in Washington, DC. From there the program grew to now 131 flight hubs in 41 states. The mission of the program is to bring WWII, Korean, and Vietnam veterans to Washington DC for a day of honor.
The flight that took off from Milwaukee was the 42nd flight for the Milwaukee Hub, honoring over 5000 veterans since its inception. To date, nationwide, over 27,000 veterans are on the waiting list to take their flight.
Employees arrived at the airport at 4 a.m. and received a brief overview and training before meeting at the pre-boarding area where the veterans would gather before boarding the plane. Veterans enjoy a breakfast, entertainment and the supportive cheers of volunteers before embarking on their journey to Washington DC. As the planes travel down the runway they receive a water cannon salute before taking off.
Once the veterans arrive in DC they board a motor coach, with police escort, and visit the World War II, Korean, and Vietnam Memorials. In addition, each trip typically includes a stop at the Marine Corps Iwo Jima Memorial, and Arlington National Cemetery. Following a short bus tour of Washington DC which allows for rest and chance to eat the veterans return home later that evening where they are once again greeted by local volunteers and family who have come to show their respect for those who served.
From the faces of those who volunteered you can sense a feeling of pride and honor, recognizing the gift it was to be there on such a special day to support the veterans taking the journey.
Greg Swiderski, Global Director of Technical Development, reflected on the experience, “It was very moving to see the sincere appreciation the vets exhibited. It was also an experience of a lifetime on so many levels that I can’t help but suggest everyone should experience it at least once.”
Bruce Nowak, Global CEP & Used Equipment Manager, commented on the sense of pride he felt both in the experience and from those getting ready to take the trip.
“Personally, I found it to be a very rewarding experience. There wasn’t a veteran that I met and shook hands with that didn’t have an ear to ear smile. The same goes for their guardian, the person that accompanies them on the trip. In many cases that was a family member, a son or daughter. I think they were all beaming for two reasons, they were looking forward to the day that was ahead of them and the fact that they, or the person they were accompanying, were being recognize and thanked for their service.”
Komatsu Mining Corporation is proud of the employees who volunteered their time to honor the many veterans who embarked on this journey. In addition, Komatsu believes in the unique skills and abilities that our veterans bring to our workforce, and continues to provide strong opportunities for transitioning service members seeking meaningful employment.