PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — Maine’s Honor Flight veterans are resting Monday after a weekend as celebrities in the capital. The 26 World War II vets traveled to Washington to see the country’s war memorials.
They were repeatedly cheered and thanked, and also got the chance to teach some lessons to another generation.
These 26 veterans say they didn’t get a big welcome 71 years ago when they came home from the war. But at the World War II memorial on Saturday, they received personal thanks from Sen. Susan Collins.
They were also an attraction for scores other visitors. It was the same at the Air Force and Marine Corps memorials, at the Korean War Memorial and the Vietnam Memorial, too.
But at Fort McHenry in Baltimore, the Maine veterans were able to use their history to affect the future.
Fort McHenry is a national park and shrine, where, in 1814, the American force withstood a night long bombardment from the British fleet. Francis Scott Key saw the American flag raised over the fort in the morning after the battle, and was inspired to write "The Star-Spangled Banner."
On Sunday, the Honor Flight Maine veterans teamed with about 40 junior high students from California to unroll a 30-by-42-foot flag, identical to the one made in 1813 to fly over the fort. As the park's rangers told of the history, the old veterans and young students literally worked hand in hand, one generation to another.
After the flag was rolled and packed away, one of the students asked to take a photo with Ed Browne, a 97-year old veteran and former prisoner of war.
"Thrilling," said Browne of the entire experience, "and so meaningful."