The Honor’s All Mine - Firefighter Accompanies Hero Grandfather on Honor Flight
Growing up, Lt. Adam Hamilton always knew his grandfather, George Brewer, served in the United States Navy during the Korean War. An authoritative figure in Adam’s life, George, also known as “grampy,” was proud of his military service and encouraged his grandson from an early age to enlist in the military, just as he did straight out of high school in 1949. George believed that a military career was important in a young person’s life to instill discipline, values, honor, tradition and respect. A medical emergency sidelined that opportunity for Adam, who later went on to a career in public service, becoming a Paramedic/Firefighter with the Coral Springs-Parkland Fire Department in 2008.
George, who served as a Diesel Mechanic on the USS Bayfield as part of the Pacific Fleet, accompanied Amphibious equipment and the troops it transported as they provided support to Untied Nations forces in Korea. On more than one occasion he was met with enemy fire. And if asked about this time in his life, he openly shared these stories with family and friends.
After hearing stories about fire and police personnel from Coral Springs, who volunteered their time with the Honor Flight, a non-profit organization whose mission is to transport U.S. military veterans to see the memorials of the respective war(s) they fought in Washington, D.C., Adam thought about his own grandfather’s service during the Korean War and sought information about how to make the trip a reality. After submitting his grandfather’s military service information and applying to serve as a guardian, both were accepted to participate in the September 21, 2019, Honor Flight out of Palm Beach International Airport.
Adam attended a 3-hour guardian course that focused on the Honor Flight’s history, mission and what to expect during their one-day trip to Washington, D.C. What Adam ultimately experienced is a renewed faith in our nation, his own feelings of patriotism and the overwhelming gratitude he has for the members of our Armed Forces – past and present.
As the Honor Flight departed from the gate during the early morning hours, the veterans and their guardians received a ceremonial water salute on the tarmac. Once they landed in Washington D.C., they were met with acapella singers from West Point, Senior Military Officials, local students and excited travelers. For George, it was even more special, his granddaughter (Adam’s sister), Erika, who works for the Federal Government, greeted him along with a slew of friends carrying signs of adoration for him and the other Honor Flight veterans.
Their memorable trip to our nation’s capital began at the Air Force Veterans Memorial, followed by a trip to Arlington Cemetery to see the Changing of the Guard. After a lunch provided by the Knights of Columbus, where Erika joined them once again as a food service volunteer, the veterans traveled to the National Mall to see the memorials honoring veterans and fallen heroes of World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam War. Spending the majority of their time at the Korean War Memorial, which commemorates the 5.8 million Americans who served in the Armed Forces from 1950-1953, George was stoic as he reflected on his military service and the sacrifices of those who fought for our nation’s freedom.
After a day filled with pride and remembrance, the veterans and their guardians returned to the airport for the flight back to South Florida.
The veterans of WWII and the Koran War served during a time in our nation’s history, which was long before the internet or cellphones made communication easier. Their only connection to home during deployment was through letters sent from loved ones, which came during “mail call.” In keeping with tradition, veterans on the Honor Flight had “mail call” during the return flight, but instead of messages from worried loved ones, they received letters of appreciation and adoration from family, friends and local students. George quietly read his letters before dozing off. Adam wasn’t quite sure how it affected him, but later learned from his “gramy” Erna, George’s wife of 64 years, that he reread them again the following day.
After the Honor Flight landed, veterans disembarked to the cheers and the celebratory sounds of Pipe and Drums fit for a hero’s welcome. Honor Guard members from police and fire, families, boy scouts and spectators lined the terminal waving American flags, chanting U.S.A, and cheering on the tired, but appreciative veterans and their guardians.
George was stopped by a local reporter who asked about the hero’s welcome, and he said, “When you returned from war, you just felt lucky to be alive and fortunate to make it home. Maybe you had your mother or father waiting for you, but never anything like this,” as the crowed continued to cheer behind him.
Since participating in the Honor Flight, George has thanked his grandson several times for the experience, but it is Adam who is grateful for what he considers a life-changing experience. The opportunity to join his “grampy” on the journey to visit and reflect at the Korean War Memorial, along with other veterans, was his honor and a memory he will forever cherish.
Lt. Hamilton encourages others who are interested in doing something special for veterans, while significantly impacting your own life, to get involved in the Honor Flight, by visiting: https://www.honorflight.org/