Category Archives: Honor Flight Chicago

Honor Flight Mail

military cards, honor flight, mailA couple of veterans from my hometown went on Honor Flight recently. Neither went with Honor Flight Chicago, so unfortunately I wasn’t able to see them off or welcome them home at the airport. They each flew on different flights with other Illinois-based Honor Flights. One veteran, my Great Uncle Tom went this year and the other veteran, my old neighbor Bud, went last year. When it comes to thank yous, I employ the “better late than never” rule.

This summer I came across an offer from One Canoe Two (and a sponsor, Veterans United) to get this 3-pack of military cards for free. I ordered a set because I knew two of the cards would be perfect for these guys. And, I had a couple of extra Honor Flight Chicago pins from when I started doing mail call a few years ago. (Maureen gave me several pins and told me to use them to “spread the word and good cheer” about Honor Flight.) At Saturday’s letter social, I wrote notes inside the cards and tucked a card and a pin inside some old notecard boxes. This is a trick I learned from Donovan who is the queen of reusing things in the name of mail.honor flight, military mail, patriotic mailThe clear plastic packaging just happened to be the exact size of my A2 cards and left room for the pinback. I had a good time decorating the boxes with patriotic washi tape. At the letter social, we weighed the package and it was 1.5 ounces. There was some disagreement about whether it’s a letter or a package, so I came home and looked up the specifications on the USPS website. It’s technically too thick to be a letter (the box is 1/2 inch thick, the letter limit is 1/4 inch) so the postage came to $2.32. I happily used my Inverted Jenny stamps and a flag forever stamp. Honor Flight of Greater PeoriaI hope Bud and Uncle Tom like their mail surprises!

P.S. That’s my Uncle Tom above with his daughters and son-in-law during his Welcome Home Celebration.

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Making Some Changes

vintage postageLast week, I made the very difficult decision to give up the Mail Call volunteer work I’ve been doing with Honor Flight for the past two years.

In some ways, I’m very sad to leave the job. I loved packing the mail for those veterans. I loved seeing all of the creative and sweet letters that area school children wrote to the veterans. I loved hanging out with my volunteer friend Barb on the Friday night before the flight, eating dinner and packing up the mail together.

But I was feeling very worn out by the job at the end of last season and I wasn’t really looking forward to going back in April when our flight season resumes, so I decided to step away. After I made the decision, I felt sad and kind of like a quitter. I work with amazing volunteers who always seem to be taking on more, not less…it’s hard not to feel like a “slacker” when I compare myself to them. But I really want some freedom this summer–freedom to spend less time monitoring mail emails, freedom to travel with Naoto without the constraints of the Honor Flight schedule, freedom to not spend anymore beautiful sunny summer days inside sorting mail all day. (Last season, every single mail sorting day happened to be a perfect summer day…)

In the end, we all make choices about how we spend our time and I have to make the choice that is right for me.

Today I feel good about my decision and I’m looking forward to spending my time on fresh new adventures.

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Veterans Day

Honor Flight Chicago Oct 2, 2013Happy Veterans Day!

A special thanks to John & Chester (pictured above) and all of the veterans in my family–dad, grandpa, uncle, cousins–who have served.

Photo from the Honor Flight Chicago website from our October 2, 2013 flight.

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My Own Mail Call

mail callYesterday, I finally finished opening all of the mail call letters from my fellow volunteers. I’ve been opening a few each day since the flight…it’s been a really sweet way to read them. I left them on the sideboard in the dining room and every day picked up one or two to read…like a tiny uplifting break in my day.

I don’t know about you, but it’s really hard for me to read nice things about myself. I think even sitting alone and reading those nice comments made me blush and feel all “awe shucks” about things…

Mr SnuffleupagusMaureen, Honor Flight’s longest serving volunteer, gave me the vintage Snuffleupagus card. She said she couldn’t find her plain stationery, but I think she should know that vintage Sesame Street makes me ridiculously happy. This card is going to hang out on my desk for awhile. vintage war mail

And this card wins the award for making me laugh out loud. Paula pasted (actually pasted!) my face on this old WWII mail picture. It was so unexpected, I actually did a double-take, saying out loud, “Wait, is that meeee?”

My volunteer season is coming to an end this month. Tomorrow, Barb and I are packing up the mail one last time for 2013, next Wednesday is our last flight. I’m ready for a break from being the “postmistress” and I can’t wait to reclaim my home again (even with having the mail collection off-site, there is a lot of stuff to manage here at home), but I’m going to miss the warm hearts of my fellow volunteers over the long, cold winter.

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Honor Flight, Chester and Me

John, Kimberly, Chester Honor Flight ChicagoWhy did I wait so long to go?

I’ve been volunteering with Honor Flight Chicago since 2009 and have been asked to go on the flight as a guardian for a World War II veteran several times. I kept putting it off, mainly for silly reasons. Although my grandfather served in the war, I am extremely unknowledgeable about the details of the war and military jargon in general. And, as someone who is pretty shy and extremely introverted, I was worried about being “on” all day long and having to make small talk. Plus, I was nervous about being responsible for a ninety year-old veteran all day. What if he fell? What if I didn’t notice that he was suffering from heat exhaustion? What if he wandered off to a bar and got lost in DC?

Those worries all seem silly now. The second I met my veteran, Chester (above right) I knew we were going to have a wonderful day. He and his friend John (top, left) both signed up for Honor Flight.

barb kim john & chester, Honor Flight ChicagoMy friend (& Co-Volunteer Coordinator) Barb was John’s guardian, so the four of us got to spend the day together as a happy foursome…it was magical.

gate entertainment, Honor Flight ChicagoBefore we boarded our plane, we had some entertainment–songs from the 1940s–at the gate while everyone enjoyed coffee and donuts. Honor Flights are quite a site to see at the crack of dawn with music and flags and so many veterans and volunteers packed into the gate. We boarded our plane and headed to DC at 7AM…the start of a very long day! empty wheel chair Honor FLight ChicagoWhen we arrived at the Dulles Airport in DC, there was a parade of people, both volunteers and active military, to welcome us. The reason I am pushing an empty wheelchair above is because Chester (who is a spry eighty-six years old) was too fast for me…he didn’t need the wheelchair. (I was jokingly offering Rob-the-Photographer a ride….you had to be there…)

Iwo JimaWe drove past the Iwo Jima Memorial (technically the Marine Corps War Memorial) on our way into DC to see the World War II Memorial. The day was really different than our normal Honor Flight day because of the government shut down. There was some question whether or not we would even get to go into the Memorial, but thanks to our Illinois Senators and Representatives, the barricades were removed. (We were prepared to break down the barricades. Naoto even made me carry bail money.) World War II memorialprotesters at world war 2 memorialSeveral members of the media were there, trying to get interviews with the veterans about the government shut down and how it affected them, and there was a large group of protesters, too. Chester and John were both interviewed by the Washington Post and ABC News. John & Chester Honor Flight Chicago World War 2 MemorialChester and John at WW2 MemorialIt was a little bit sad to see that the memorial’s fountains were turned off (because of the government shut down) but the memorial was still beautiful. We took our time, spending a quiet spell in the shade. It was hot for a fall day. Then all of the Honor Flight participants met for the Pledge of Allegiance, the National Anthem and a moment of silence. color guard at World War 2 memorialgroup picture prep, Honor Flight ChicagoHonor FLight Chicago 10.2.2013After our time at the memorial, our day strayed from the regular Honor Flight program. Normally, we spend time at the Vietnam and Korean War Memorials and the Abraham Lincoln Memorial and then visit a Smithsonian Museum but those were all closed because of the shut down. Instead, we went to the Newseum, a privately owned museum dedicated to reporting and the news. On the top floor, there is an awesome view of the Capitol. Newseum World Trade Center antenna NewseumJohn, Chester, Barb and I cooled off and explored the museum. We looked at the Pulitzer Prize winning photographs from the 1940s and saw the JFK exhibit and the antenna pulled from the World Trade Center on 9/11 (pictured above). Air Force Memorialair force memorialNext, we stopped at the Air Force Memorial. John and Chester hung out on the bus during this part. The day was getting long and the weather was warm. Barb and I popped out just to see the memorial, which is crazy-amazing…you can read more about the design here. It took my breath away. It reminded me a little bit of the Arch in St. Louis and of the Vietnam Memorial because of its simple, but powerful design. Arlington Cemetery Honor Flight Chicago Tomb of the Unknown SoldierHonor FLight Chicago Tomb of the UNknown SoldierAfter the Air Force Memorial, we drove into Arlington National Cemetery to see the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. And then it was on to the airport to get ready for the flight back to Chicago. At Dulles, there were many volunteers at our gate to help us celebrate the end of our day in DC. Chester shook a lot of hands that night. Chester at the airportOnce we got on the plane, it was hard for me to concentrate because I knew the “mail call” portion of the flight was coming. I sat in between John and Chester (they insisted) and chatted with them until I got the nod to come up to the front to help pass out the big envelopes of mail. chester, kimberly and john Honor Flight Chicagomail call honor flight chicagoIt was rewarding to see the vets open their mail and read it…all of those hours sorting and packing the mail…definitely worth it!

mail call Honor Flight ChicagoAnd, much to my surprise, there was a mail call for me with an envelope filled with letters from our volunteers. It was a wonderful surprise…I’m slowly making my way through them…everyone who volunteers with Honor Flight is so amazing and kind. Honor Flight Chicago Welcome Homechester at the Welcome Home Honor Flight ChicagoChester at the Welcome Home Honor Flight ChicagoOnce we arrived back at Midway Airport (at around 8:30PM), Chester and the rest of our Honor Flight veterans were welcomed home by an enormous crowd of active military, scout troops, family and friends. Chester was escorted through the parade by the sailor above. It was awesome watching them and hearing people cheer for and thank Chester by name. He shook many, many more hands. He and John could not believe all of those people came out to thank them and the rest of the veterans!

It was such a long day, but worth every minute. I’m so glad I let Barb talk me into going. It was such an honor to spend the day with Chester and John and the eighty-eight other veterans on the flight. I’m so thankful…not only for the opportunity to go on the flight, but that I’ve had the opportunity to do this work and meet so many amazing volunteers and veterans.

Most of the pictures on this post were taken by Rob Williamson, one of our Honor Flight Chicago photographers. More pictures from our day (and when I say more, I mean a few thousand) can be found here

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It’s An Honor…

World War 2 Memorial Honor Flight ChicagoIt’s going to be a little quiet around here this week.

Today I’m heading to DC with Honor Flight Chicago. I will have the pleasure and the honor of escorting a World War II veteran throughout the day. Even though I’ve been a volunteer since 2009, this is my first time flying with Honor Flight. I am super-excited. I am thrilled to be going and so happy to finally see the looks on the veterans’ faces when they get their “mail call”. It will be amazing to see the whole process come full circle.

It’s going to be an interesting challenge, too. Many of the monuments, memorials and museums on our itinerary are closed due to the government shut down. Yesterday, an Honor Flight from Mississippi had to “break in” to see the memorial. But our Honor Flight Chicago CEO has promised a wonderful trip full of surprises for our veterans…and she’s not one to let them down.

If you live in Chicagoland and would like to attend the Welcome Home and celebrate the homecoming of ninety World War II veterans tonight, the information is here: Welcome Home Celebration for October 2nd, 2013. I promise that you’ll have a fabulous time just being there, clapping and shaking plenty of happy and humble veterans’ hands. 

I promise to report back about my day when I catch up on my sleep and get back into the routine again. Until then, watch for us on the news.

Photo courtesy of Honor Flight Chicago

Are you new here and don’t know about Honor Flight Chicago? Start here and see the rest here

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A Bears Game Double Date

Honor Flight Chicago Bears GameLast Thursday, my friend Barb and I had the pleasure of escorting two World War II veterans to a Bears game. That’s us above with Bill and Bill. As far as dates go, Barb and I hit the jackpot. The Bills were perfect gentlemen and we all had an amazing and special night. Honor Flight Chicago World War II veterans at Bears GameThe activity was an Honor Flight Chicago event. The Bears gave us tickets to the game that included access to the United Club, a “hospitality area” in the stadium that serves amazing cocktails and beer and gourmet food that you could either eat in the (climate-controlled) dining area or take to your cozy cushioned seat. We all felt a little spoiled by the services, the amazing food (hello freshly carved barbeque beef brisket on a challah roll!) and the spacious seating. We ate inside before the game, and then came back inside to meet up with the other volunteers and veterans at half-time. Otherwise, we were outside enjoying a great game (lots of scoring and a WIN for the Bears!) on a perfectly cool August night in Chicago. I mean…isn’t that a gorgeous view?Soldier Field skyline view Chicago Bears Soldier FieldBears score flag runnersBears WinDuring the game, George McCaskey came over to thank Bill and Bill for their service to our country. Both veterans were floored at this visit…as were all of the people around us. It was a really great moment in their night. a visit from GMme and the two Bills at Soldier FieldOur “seat neighbor” during the game has been a season ticket holder for five years. He was so kind to Bill and Bill. He helped us safely assist the two Bills up and down the stairs and chatted to them about their service and Soldier Field and he was just a downright great guy. Thanks Season Ticket Holder Section 311 Row 6 Seats 13 & 14!

One really funny/scary moment in the night occurred as we were entering Soldier Field. We were going through the ticket gates and (tall) Bill didn’t have his ticket. He explained to the ticket-taker that Barb had it. Barb had already gone through the gate and I reminded Bill that I had given him his ticket in the parking garage. He shook his head and said that I hadn’t given him a ticket. For a moment, I was questioning my own sanity, but then Barb came over and said she had seen me handing off the ticket to Bill. We thought maybe he had dropped it by the car or something. We had all entered through the gate but Bill, and you can’t re-enter once your ticket has been scanned, so we had a small moment of panic. No one wanted Bill to walk alone all the way back to the car to look for his ticket. I felt regretful that I had allowed Bill to be a gentleman and let me go first. But then, Bill went into his pocket and protested, “This sheet of paper is the only thing you gave me outside!” IT WAS HIS TICKET!! He just didn’t realize it was a paper-printed ticket (instead of the “real” tickets he was used to). The ticket-taker hugged him, I hugged her and we all breathed a huge sigh of relief that we were able to go inside without anymore drama and worry.

We all had a great time and I really felt honored to be able to spend the evening with Bill and Bill. When we dropped them off, they hugged us both and thanked us for choosing them to go…it was the least we could do. We have so much more to thank them for.

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Honor Flight 50

PrintLast Wednesday, Honor Flight Chicago flew its 50th flight of World War II veterans to Washington DC. I’m not sure if the women who founded the Chicago organization in 2008 ever thought it would take off and grow the way it has. Now, over 4,000 World War II Veterans have been honored with a trip to see their memorial in DC and we have many more on our waiting list to fly on future flights. The urgency of our mission is not lost upon any of us…

Most of you know that I’m in charge of collecting and organizing the “Mail Call” surprise on the flight. (If you’re new around here, please feel free to click the link for more details.) We are always looking for extra letters from both kids and adults to fill out the mail packs of Veterans who don’t have family to write mail. If you’re a letter writer or a card maker and you’d like to participate in thanking a veteran, please feel free to send the mail to our new Honor Flight Chicago Mail Call address below. (I used to get the mail sent to my home, but now we have a mailbox at the local UPS store to collect things…I enjoy having a tiny bit less mail clutter around here lately!)

Honor Flight Chicago Mail Call
c/o Kimberly Adami-Hasegawa
159 N Marion St #375
Oak Park, IL 60301-1032
Honor Flight Chicago 50th flight
Logo and 50th flight picture courtesy of the Honor Flight Chicago website.
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Up & Attem’

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This was my sweet Presley yesterday morning when I got up to get ready for the first Honor Flight of 2013. It was 1:30AM and, as usual she gave me the cutest little send-off ever (all while Naoto snored, mind you). I got home from volunteering around 8AM, ate breakfast and took a long nap. It was dark and stormy all day yesterday, setting the mood for snuggling on the couch, reading Relish and occasionally checking on a frightened Presley.

Today it is still raining…and flooding, so Naoto is working from home. Presley is out of hiding for a moment…another storm is supposed to roll our way shortly. And I’m trying to clean up our apartment for Naoto’s party on Saturday.

I still have my invitations and a little paper Spam Musubi-making tutorial to share, so hopefully tomorrow will be a little bit brighter so I can take pictures. And, while all of this is happening, I’ll be stalking my email as I continue to wait for word on our (potential) community garden plot.

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