Recently, WWII veterans from Orlando, FL were recognized via an Honor Flight for their service in that war. I had never heard of the Honor Flight process prior to this event, and may not have ever heard of it except my great uncle was one of those veterans recognized.
The purpose of the Honor Flight, I learned, is to fly veterans to Washington, DC and recognize them for their service to their country. The return flight is to symbolize their return home from the final mission as if they were still serving on active duty. In other words, it represents their homeward return one last time honored with the thanks from a grateful nation.
In addition to returning from the last mission, upon their return, these veterans also receive their final mail call. The mail call this time consists of congratulatory letters and cards from family and friends.
I was one of those family and friends who received an invitation to create and send a final mail call card for my great uncle’s Honor Flight return to station. He received an outpouring of correspondence from over 70 family members and friends.
In the case of my great uncle, he had served aboard the submarine USS Perch 313 as a quartermaster and assistant navigator. His tour of duty had been in the Pacific Theater. He had endured enemy fire, depth charging along with just being in constant harms way on mission in enemy waters for 30-60 days at a time avoiding detection while pursuing the enemy.
As we celebrate May and Military Appreciation Month, we should remember those who served and continue to serve to protect our freedom and our nation’s borders. The letter to my great uncle shown below was one of those remembrances from a grateful nephew, citizen, father and husband.
April 13, 2013
Mr. Sam Crispin
Village Honor Flight
P.O. Box 490
Lady Lake, FL 32158-0490
You have returned home safely from your honor flight. Your last mission aboard the USS Perch SS313, was not unlike any other combat mission, in that there were hours and hours of boredom and routine punctuated by moments of prolonged, excruciating terror. This mission, however, is done. One major difference about this mission is that it is the final mission for you and the Perch. The war is over. Japan has surrendered. It is time to go home.
Sam, you are one of those returning home after a long war to a country within a world that has changed forever. You have done your duty. Unlike so many who bravely served, you have lived to return home.
You have not dwelled on your achievement, but have chosen to “get on with it.” “Getting on with it” will mean not returning to your Midwestern roots. You have seen the world and how it works. Growing up in the Midwest has prepared you, but it will not hold you. No, you have chosen to begin your postwar life anew in Miami. You will satisfy your wanderlust by creating one of South Florida’s largest independent advertising agencies and by booking large international travel industry clients such as Intercontinental Hotels. Where you had patrolled in wartime, you will now journey in peace helping your clients to shape the economic byways of international commerce and trade throughout the post-war era.
You will also marry two beautiful women and raise two beautiful children. You will make your mark in peace as you have made your mark in war aboard the Perch. You will continue your maritime passion through your membership and service to the Coral Reef Yacht Club. Your local and regional communities will benefit from Sam Crispin’s personal and professional leadership and vision.
Will this future awaiting you upon the completion of your last patrol be enough to merit the sacrifice of those who would never return? Will what they fought and died for to make better futures for those who didn’t, have been honored properly and fully? Sam, does the future you created after your last mission merit their validation and admiration? Would those long dead, who died so young now look at the future you have created and lived, have said they would have done no less had they been given the chance to serve and live as you have done?
The answer as told by the story of your life is now and will continue to be a resounding, YES! When given the chance of a lifetime to do and be your best, you have gone above and beyond. Above and beyond, because that is your nature. Because that is how you were raised. Because that is how you fought, and now that is how you have chosen your life.
Thank you, Sam. Thank you for your service. Thank you for your vision and your spirit of how a life, redeemed, ought to be lived. Your family is as proud and grateful to you for your service, as it is for you returning home safely at this mission’s end. You are no longer known by your naval rank. You are now known as civilian, husband, father, uncle and just plain “Sam” for those lucky enough to know you.
Welcome, home Sam.
With much love and admiration,
Jon, Bonnie and David Crispin