As a World War II veteran, I served in the Marines from 1940 to 1946. Earlier this year, I was invited to go on an honor flight to Washington, D.C. Now I would see many tributes that were given to World War II veterans. About two weeks before the flight I received a call from the Vietnam veteran who would be my guardian on the trip, Angel Rodriguez. He arrived at my home to introduce himself and told me he would be in charge of everything.
On April 2, he arrived at 4 a.m. to pick me up. We arrived at Miami 30 minutes later. As we got close to the entrance he dropped me off so I could get the wheelchair that was waiting. As I entered the airport, there were a huge crowd of people waiting to thank us for our service to our country.
Our flight took off around 7:30 a.m. and landed two and a half hours later in Washington, D.C.
We stopped at the Knights of Columbus for a great lunch. Then we went to Arlington National Cemetery. I didn’t realize that there was 400,000 graves in Arlington. We saw the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and also visited the Washington Monument and the Capitol.
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Then we stopped at the Vietnam memorial, the wall where there are the names of 58,000 people killed in the Vietnam War. We took off on our return flight, and after about 30 minutes the captain said that we had mail call. I wondered who would send us mail on a plane. We were all surprised to receive so many letters. I received about 100 letters thanking me for my service in the Marines. I didn’t have time to read all of them so I took them home. When we arrived, crowds of people were in line to thank us for our services. That was something I’ll never forget.
I would like to thank everyone for the mail — the senators, the congressmen and the commissioners who wrote letters, as well as the school students. This was one of the most memorable times of my life. It was truly a wonderful day.
Joseph Spoto Jr., Miami