On Friday, Van Buren Township resident Don Bosman got a free plane ride to Washington, D.C. to see the monuments built to honor him and other veterans of World War II.
He was one of the thousands of veterans from WWII, Korea, and Vietnam to enjoy a day of being honored by Honor Flight Network, a non-profit group formed with an urgent goal – to honor the older and disabled veterans for their service before it was too late.
Bosman was among 80 veterans and 80 guardians who flew to Baltimore early Friday and back again late Friday night, making for a very full day that will never be forgotten.
This was the final flight this year, the seventh year of the project. At the end of 2010, more than 63,000 veterans had been flown to Washington and honored.
Bosman applied for the flight after getting applications from Oakland County inviting him to go along. He put off applying for a while, believing he had done nothing special. Then, he decided he would like to go.
Bosman served in the Navy during World War II. He was recalled to the Navy in 1949 and instead was commissioned in the Army in 1950.
Bosman said he was the first veteran off the plane in Baltimore on Friday and what he saw took his breath away. He said there were about 80 military people from every branch of the services waiting to greet them, all in their dress uniforms.
It still chokes him up to think about how they saluted the veterans as the veterans walked or rolled by in wheelchairs.
He said Ford Motor Company’s Alan Mulally was at the airport and he saw the executive down on his knees, talking to a veteran in a wheelchair. He said about half of the veterans were in wheelchairs, including him, because they were not up to all the walking involved. Bosnan said a Ford vice president pushed his wheelchair.
The veterans went to the World War II Memorial and other monuments erected to honor veterans and then toured Washington, D.C. He said all the Michigan Democratic elected representatives came out to greet them and he was a bit disappointed that none of the Republicans came.
After a long, tiring day, the veterans flew back to Detroit, where 20 Vietnam Veterans greeted them as they got off the plane – another touching moment.
Bosman said each veteran on the trip received a large envelope, packed full of personal letters from individuals and politicians honoring each veteran by name.
One of Bosman’s letters came from a sophomore at Dexter High School who said since he learned about World War II in his American History Class he became very interested in the subject. Since then he has been seeking out WWII veterans to listen to their stories and preserve them for the future. So far he has talked to 26 veterans and wants to talk to Bosman, too.
“I admire all of you veterans so greatly and am honored that this letter is being read by such a brave, and noble human being,” wrote student Andrew Kapanowski. “You witnessed the worst that humanity has to offer, and got through it. Nobody of any other generation could have done the courageous and patriotic things that you did for your country during World War II…”
Another letter came from a man born in Belgium and now working in Germany, who took advantage of an interfaith mail distribution initiative.
He wanted to share his family’s experiences with World War II and to thank Bosman “from the bottom of my heart for what you did and I will make sure my grandchildren also understand this and the importance of your and my grandfathers’ efforts.”
A bright, simple, red-white-and-blue letter, carefully printed in large letters came from a child named Kaeleigh. It read: “Dear Veteran, Thank you for protecting the U.S.A. Thank you for keeping us safe. You are the best.” It was surrounded by red and blue stars and “America!” in large letters.