Joe Greiwe recently had the opportunity to participate in the Honor Flight Tri-State, which provides veterans with free trips to Washington, D.C., to see their memorials.
Each veteran travels with a guardian, and Greiwe's was his daughter, Amy Weigel. "You can't have your spouse be your guardian," he reports.
On Sept. 24, "there were 88 veterans and 88 guardians. We had our own plane that took us to Washington .... We had to be there (at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport) at 5:30 in the morning. We had orientation and breakfast and then got on the plane." The veterans all wore yellow shirts, and their guardians donned blue ones.
After arriving in the nation's capital, "we went to see all the memorials," recalls the Batesville resident. "They had four buses that took all the people from one memorial to another. The director on the bus gave us an idea of what we were going to see."
While there, "they served us lunch and dinner at night. They treated us like kings!"
The best part of the experience was "to meet with all the other veterans," reveals the 87-year-old, who is married to Marlene and has six children: Beverly Roell, Cindy Enneking, Charles Greiwe (deceased), Brian Greiwe, Jeff Greiwe and Amy Weigel; 11 grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.
"For the first time ever, they had eight World War II veterans in their 90s. Three of them had two other brothers. There were five veterans from one family."
"The World War II Memorial was one of the most impressive. It had a lake and different scenes all the way around. The Iwo Jima Memorial (U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial) was another very impressive one. We also got to see the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It was really nice to see that."
After arriving back at the Kentucky airport around 8:30 p.m., "there were about 2,000 people to welcome us. People wanted to shake your hand and thank you for serving your country. It was amazing. Eleven of my family members were there to greet me, which I never dreamed would happen." One of his sons, who was in Baltimore for work, flew home just for that.
Greiwe emphasized, "It is unbelievable how many volunteers there are to put this (Honor Flight) on and how they bend over backwards to take care of all the veterans .... I would definitely recommend this to any veteran."
"It was a great trip. I think Amy enjoyed it as much as I did .... I owe a lot to her and her friends who got this trip going for me."
"It was quite an honor," his wife adds.
The veteran reports he was drafted into the Army and served from 1954-56, just after the Korean War ended. He was sent to Germany, where he worked as a mechanic for most of that time.
Although he wasn't in combat, Greiwe points out, "You can't believe what the World War I and II and Vietnam soldiers had to go through. Now they fight with all kinds of equipment, but back then, it was face-to-face combat in all kinds of weather."
Honor Flight Tri-State
All World War II, Korean War and Vietnam War veterans ages 65 and older, who served either stateside or overseas, are eligible for this flight.
"For many of our veterans, a trip to Washington to see their memorials is not financially or physically possible by themselves. This is the mission of Honor Flight Tri-State: to make that dream come true for as many veterans as possible. If a veteran does not have a family member to accompany them, we will assign a qualified and enthusiastic guardian, ready to assist them on their trip of a lifetime," according to www.honorflighttristate.org.
"All flights include airfare; bus tour; Honor Flight Tri-State signature T-shirt, which must be worn on the trip; name badge souvenir; three meals; and assigned guardian on a one-day trip. Veterans and guardians must arrive at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport terminal at the assigned time. We take care of everything from there. All veterans must have their own transportation to and from the airport. Guardians will be asked to attend a guardian meeting one week before their flight and must be willing to pay the guardian fee," the website noted.