Flying Our Heroes for the 75th Anniversary of D-Day - United Hub

Flying our heroes for the 75th anniversary of D-Day

By Matt Adams, June 06, 2019

Over the past several days, on flights out of Washington D.C., Houston, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Denver and others, we had the distinct honor and privilege of welcoming more than two dozen World War II veterans en route to Holland and France, back to the places where many of them fought 75 years ago during the Allied D-Day landings and associated battles.

D-Day veteran pictured with his family before boarding a flight to the 75th anniversary in France

At Los Angeles International Airport, Customer Service Representative Cindy Good, whose uncle, Eric Meissner, took part in the invasion of Normandy, France that began on June 6, 1944 — D-Day — said a few words to the assembled crowd of onlookers who had gathered to see veteran Rudolfo Huereque off before he boarded his flight.

"My mom and family grew up in Austria under Hitler's rule, so if it were not for the Americans and Allied Forces that liberated countries across Europe, I know that I would not be here today," Cindy said. "Many World War II veterans will say 'they didn't do anything,' or 'they were only doing their job.' To those, I will say, 'You did everything… you saved the world.'"

Owing to that debt of gratitude she feels, Cindy works year-round with organizations that arrange for veterans to revisit the former battlefields where they served. Leading up to the 75th anniversary of D-Day, she contacted the airports from which a number of veterans would depart for remembrance trips, working with local employees who ensured the veterans received the hero's welcome they deserve when arriving at the airport.

In a particularly powerful scene at Washington D.C.'s Dulles Airport, a group of the veterans spoke with area high school students before leaving for Europe. As the veterans recounted their experiences, the students listened in intense silence, seeing the war for the first time through the eyes of the men who lived it.

"What was amazing to see is how they expressed no regret, and that they knew it was their duty and honor," said Dulles Airport Managing Director Omar Idris, who led the proceedings alongside members of our United for Veterans business resource group.

Among was 100-year-old Sidney Walton, who served in the China-India-Burma theater of World War II and is one of the oldest surviving veterans of the war. He's been on a mission to visit all 50 states, in addition to battle sites overseas, so that he can tell his story as a living link to a past that is quickly fading as more and more World War II veterans pass away.

At Denver's International Airport, employees and customers paid their respects to Ronald Scharfe, an Iwo Jima veteran, and Leila Morrison, who served on the front lines as a U.S. Army nurse and 2nd lieutenant during the war. We threw them a catered reception at the gate, where they were met with a round of applause, and arranged a water cannon salute as they taxied before takeoff.

"We owe so much to them that this is the least we can do for our 'Greatest Generation' American heroes," said Denver Airport's Customer Service Supervisor Cheryl Searle. "It felt like a Fourth of July parade in small town USA with American flags waving throughout the concourse."

Elsewhere, we had veterans depart from Birmingham, Alabama), San Diego, Las Vegas, Rochester, New York, Little Rock, Arkansas, Chattanooga, Tennessee, Akron/Canton, Ohio, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Minneapolis/St. Paul, San Antonio, Greensboro, North Carolina, Savannah, Georgia, Charlotte, North Carolina and Missoula, Montana.

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