Russellville’s Janice “Jingle” Bell and Billy Bibb were among 99 World War II veterans who experienced royal treatment as honorees on the Music City World War II Honor Flight on Sept. 5, 2012. The Honor Flight takes WWII veterans from Nashville airport to Washington DC to visit the war memorials and other sites in one day at no expense to the veterans.
Upon arrival at Nashville’s BNA airport at 5:30 a.m. they were immediately greeted with cheers and Patriot Riders on their motorcycles with flag guards to walk between. Family and friends had previously gone through security measures so they were allowed to go to the gate and see them off on their adventure. A buffet breakfast was served to all the veterans and their families and friends compliments of HMS- the airport food service. HMS also sent lunch and dinner for them on the plane. A band played music from the WWII era. The color guard presented the colors. The BNA Vice President welcomed everyone. He said on behalf of BNA that they were humbled to be a part of this recognition and expressed gratitude and appreciation to the veterans. The chaplain led in prayer for a safe trip.
Fox 17 News was broadcasting live from the gate and a reporter went on the flight to cover the events in Washington DC. Janice Bell was interviewed on the live morning broadcast. Calls back to Russellville alerted people to turn on their television and record the broadcasts. Channel 4 News also covered the airport festivities.
Amidst much cheering and applause, the veterans boarded the US Airways flight at 8:30 a.m. Families and friends were invited to a gate where they could view the takeoff which held another salute tot he aged soldiers. Two fire trucks were positioned so that they made a massive arch of water for the plane to pass through. An impressive sight.
At 11:15 EST the plane landed in Washington Reagan Airport. A cheering crowd was their to greet them, a band was playing, and flags were waving to welcome the honorees. Three buses awaited them to start their sight-seeing in our nation’s Capital.
Their first stop at 1:30 p.m. was the World War II Memorial. This was the first time for many to ever see this tribute. It was an emotional experience for many. When tourists saw the veterans- all wearing their Honor Flight white caps- many came to them to express their admiration for them. Some veteran sin wheelchairs, some walking, all absorbing the somber memorial. Mr. Bell was impressed with this memorial and was able to go to the Kentucky section to see the tribute paid to Kentuckians who fought in the war where so many lives were lost.
The buses arrived at the Vietnam, Korean and Lincoln Memorials at 2:15 p.m. where they disembarked and spent one hour. They next visited the Air Force Memorial and had group pictures made.
Arlington National Cemetery was the final stop. Both Janice Bell and Billy Bibb said this was a favorite stop for them. They were given front-row status to watch the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. They were so impressed by the precision of the guards, the reverent silence of the crowd, and the rows and rows of white crosses surrounding them. It was a memory forever etched in their minds.
At 5:30 p.m. the buses departed Arlington and drove by the Marine Memorial en-route to the airport. At 6 p.m. they arrived at Reagan Airport amidst a boisterous send-off party for veterans. There were ladies in WWII era dress, bands playing, dancing, flags flying, and much kissing from the ladies leaving bright red lipstick on their cheeks to give this replay: “What happens in DC, stays in DC!”
The weary but excited veterans had much to talk about on the flight home. Their bodies were exhausted but their minds were whirling with so many memories.
Meanwhile, back at Nashville’s BNA airport, hundreds of family, friends, and well-wishers were gathering at Concourse B for their arrival home. The “Time Out” Band was playing for their entertainment. Airport personnel did everything possible to make everyone comfortable. Senior airport volunteers in their red vests were dancing the stroll down between the two rows of flag guards- it was a real party. The flag core consisted of about 20 men and women from the Patriot Riders. Several road their motorcycles that night and parked them in front of the US Airways terminal with flags flying on them. This was a gallant effort on their part because that night there was a terrible thunderstorm, high winds, and downpours. Their clothes were soaked but their spirits were high as they saluted these veterans. Herb Lewis, a rider from Franklin, Tenn. commented, “If it had not been for the men of this generation, Western Civilization as we know it would not exist.” Other motorcycle clubs also participated in the homecoming party. Throughout the year, these clubs help raise money for the Honor Flight.
Bibb and Bell both said they were so surprised at the coming-home celebration in Nashville, Tenn. Bibb was astounded at the large number of people who volunteered their time to cheer them home. Janice Bell said he had never been treated so royally- like a VIP.
The Music City Honor Flight is the result of much fundraising and organization by four men in Nashville, Tenn. Individual and corporate donations and much fundraising is required to pay for the approximate $65,000 costs on the plane. The pilots and crew donate their time, a doctor and nurse accompany the flight and volunteer their time, the airports donate many services, and many volunteers are required to make this event a success.
A guardian (the pay $300) accompanies every 3 veterans on the flight. The other veteran on the local team was Frank Allen from Hopkinsville who at age 95 was the oldest man on the flight. Bell is 91 and Bibb is 88. Their guardian was local Gordonsville resident Joe Gill Lawrence. Lawrence has served as guardian on 4 of the Honor Flights. He calls the men his “boys.” Each guardian has one wheelchair veteran and two mobile veterans. Lawrence said it is indeed an honor and privilege to accompany these great men of valor and is humbled by the entire experience. Lawrence comes from a military family- his father was Gilbert Lawrence, a career Air Force veteran. He has many family connections in Logan County.
Sue Wood and Jackie Powell helped with applications for the flight for Bell and Bibb and accompanied them to their orientation meeting held on Aug. 19 at the Shriner’s Temple on Brick Church Road in Nashville, Tenn. They were amused at the comment for Janice Bell: “There;s a lot of Old Coots in this room” as spoken by a 91 year old! On this day they met with Joe Lawrence and were told details about the flight. Mr. Frank Allen was accompanied by his son, David Allen. Sue and Jackie also took Bell and Bibb to the airport and returned them home. Being a part of the airport festivities was an emotional experience for them as well, a great memory they will not forget. Seeing the veterans reunite with their wives- several of whom were in wheelchairs- was so inspiring. Some veteran shad four generations greeting them. It was truly a grand homecoming for the deserving men.
Three other WWII veterans took part in the Music City Honor Flight in May. They were Glen Tinsley from Auburn, Nelson Lyne from Olmstead, and Doc Lyne from Russellville. Tinsley said it was an experience he will never forget.
These WWII veterans were treated as VIP’s for one day- that is a mistake. They should be treated as VIP’s EVERYDAY. Every American who enjoys the freedoms we have in the United States owes these men and women of the Greatest Generation our gratitude and appreciation. God Bless You All.