Last Wednesday I had the pleasure of being part of the Honor Flight group that flew to Washington to visit the World War II Memorials and other sites.
Our true heroes on the group were the 90-odd World War II veterans making the trip. That’s the purpose of Honor Flight — to allow World War II veterans to see the memorial that was built in their honor. Why it took 60 years to build a memorial to these heroes is a matter for another editorial at another time.
Secondary heroes on the trip were staff members of Honor Flight of the Upstate and the caretakers who paid their own way for the trip so they could help these veterans enjoy themselves in Washington.
All that remained among the visitors were three members of the press, including a pudgy guy with a camera.
One of the good things that the Honor Flight folks had arranged was a high school band to play patriotic music at the Greenville-Spartanburg Airport before our group left. Another musical group was waiting at Reagan International Airport, where airport employees waved American flags to welcome the veterans to Washington. So it was no surprise that when we reached the World War II Memorial, there were people waiting for us there also.
Rep. Gresham Barrett was one of those waiting, but most of the attention focused on former Sen. Bob Dole, who is also a World War II veteran. Dole agreed to have his photo made with his wife Elizabeth and the 90 veterans who made the trip.
As I prepared to make the picture, a man came and identified himself as a photographer for the national Honor Flight organization. He noted that everybody (the caretakers had their cameras out also) would need to move back several feet for anybody to get a picture of the entire group.
He told us that if we would cooperate with him and let him get his photos, he would make sure we had time to take our own photos.
Sounded good. I know I was working, but so was he. And just like both me and a football coach are working on Friday nights at high school ballgames, part of my job is to stay out of his way.
A young man who apparently witnessed what was going on came over to speak with us.
“You don’t have to get out of his way,” the young man said. “This is a free country. He can’t tell you what to do. Go ahead and stand in front of him.”
To the credit of the group, the young man was basically ignored. Sure, we had the freedom to stand in the way. But we also had the sense to know that if we did so, not only would he not get a picture, but nobody else would either.
The young man looked as if he smelled something bad. He raised his voice and said, “He can’t tell you what to do! This is America. You have the freedom to do whatever you want.”
Again he was ignored. The professional photographer got his photos, then paused to allow everybody else to get a shot of this historic scene.
America is blessed to enjoy so many freedoms. Thankfully, included in those freedoms is the right to be courteous and respectful of others.