I am an American...and Very Thankful!

Posted on 9/2/2011 1:55:00 PM

by Rich Reichert, President and C.E.O.


Thank you WWII veterans...


Earlier this week I had the privilege to ‘welcome home’ a group of fantastic World War II veterans at Midway Airport returning from Washington D.C. on an Honor Flight. Although I had heard of Honor Flights and knew a little bit about the program, I had no idea the emotions this experience would elicit. For those who are unfamiliar with the Honor Flight program, the organization honors our World War II veterans for an entire day by flying them to Washington D.C. Volunteers (who pay for the privilege) accompany the veterans throughout the entire experience. Upon arrival in Washington, they are welcomed ceremoniously on the runway with a host of emergency vehicles, water cannons and active-duty military personnel. They are given a bus tour of our nation’s capitol which is highlighted by a visit to the World War II Memorial. The vets are treated as dignitaries wherever they travel and are greeted by various groups, including Boy Scouts and a plethora of regular Honor Flight volunteers.
At the end of the day, the veterans and their volunteer hosts return to Midway airport. This is where I was touched by this group of heroes. My wife and I were asked to join a group to ‘welcome home’ our friend, Staff Sergeant Robert Sutherland, who served the 28th Recon Unit in Europe during WWII. Because of some mechanical problems the airplane encountered earlier in the day, the return flight was delayed until almost 10 p.m. We expected to find two or three hundred folks in the baggage claim area at Midway when we arrived. Wow, had we underestimated the crowd! Likely, there were closer to two thousand grateful Americans present to greet their heroes as they arrived home at the end of the day of honor. On a week night at 10 p.m! Young people, old people. There were active-duty military personnel everywhere, standing at attention and saluting their predecessors. A group playing loud, patriotic bagpipe music brought tears to the eyes of all present as we cheered our returning heroes. Chants of , “U.S.A., U.S.A.” were everywhere. The WWII veterans were all smiles and very appreciative. It reminds me of how proud I am to be an American and how thankful I am for the sacrifices these heroes made for me and my fellow Americans. 
It also reminds me of a poem I keep with me in my wallet. It was written in 1966 by the then director of the Purdue University All-American Marching Band, Al G. Wright. It has been spoken over an arrangement of “American the Beautiful” at every Purdue home football game since. It goes like this:
I am an American
That’s the way most of us put it, just matter of factly.
They are plain words, those four.
You could write them on your thumbnail,
Or you could sweep them clear across the bright autumn sky.
But remember too that they are more than words.
They are a way of life.
So whenever you speak them, speak them firmly;
Speak them proudly, speak them gratefully.
I am an American!