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Last year, I experienced a day that I will always remember. As his guardian, I traveled with my Uncle Jack Wade and 97 other WWII veterans selected by Honor Flight Birmingham to visit the National WWII Memorial in Washington, D.C.
As I reflect back on that day and what made it so special, I think of how I witnessed people of all ages and social status honor my uncle and the other veterans for their service to our country. Our country would not be what it is today had it not been for the sacrifices of these men and others like them.
Our veterans were greeted at the WWII Memorial in Washington D.C. by U.S. Senators Richard Shelby and Jeff Sessions.
After spending the day in Washington, they returned to the Birmingham Airport with a heroes’ welcome. There were hundreds of cheering, flag waving people awaiting us as we exited the terminal. I don’t think there was a dry eye in the airport.
My uncle has been my hero for a long time, because he was like a father to Joe and me when he didn’t have to be. In many ways, he is a quiet, simple man but yet a tremendous role model in my life. I don’t think I have ever seen him mad or say a curse word. He has taught me, among other things, what a loving father should be like and how a husband should treat his wife.
I found out on the flight that my uncle had not flown since he returned home from WWII about 67 years ago. I kept telling him that security guards and random strangers in the airport are not normally that nice to people traveling! They are that nice to veterans though.
In a day and time when our heroes are sports stars and celebrities, I was able to tell my uncle, a veteran, that he was my hero. What a blessing that was in my life!
Jim Meads, P.E., is the President and CEO at Sain Associates, Inc., headquartered in Birmingham, Alabama, with offices in Cullman, Alabama, Pulaski, Tennessee and Mandeville, Louisiana. Sain is a site engineering, traffic/transportation engineering and planning and land surveying firm with experience in more than thirty states.