“If not for Veteran I have no place to come”

Two years ago, Jonathan went on the Triad Flight of Honor. I’m pretty sure it still ranks in the top 10 days of his life. He wrote his thoughts here and how being a guardian on that day reminded him of our job as financial guardians for our clients. The excerpt is below, for the full version (with financial commentary, go here: http://bit.ly/uZEBx2)

Some events are so enormous that history’s judgment erects a permanent monument; something that remains long after all the eye witnesses are gone. Last Saturday, I boarded US Airways Flight 9092 to Washington, DCas part of the Triad’s Flight of Honor to take 101 World War II Veterans to see such a monument, their monument: the World War II Memorial.

I was chosen to be one of thirty-six guardians, each of us assigned to accompany three of the Veterans (pictured, myself in red). Before the flight, knowing that seniors prize familiarity, I made an effort to both call and meet my 83, 86, and 91 year-old companions at the ‘pre-flight’ meeting. When the eldest couldn’t make the meeting because he was under the weather, I drove out to his home. I learned how much the last ten years have demanded of him, but I got to hear a lot of happy memories too, and I could see that the more we talked, the better he felt. The only problem, I learned, was that the t-shirt he’d been given for the trip was an XXL but he needed an L at most.  Before I could reel back in my words, I told him I’d take care of it.

After finding out there were no more shirts available, I called the seamstress who has repaired my dress shirts over the years. “Could you take a size XXL and make it into a size large?” I asked. “Sure,” she said, in broken English, “You bring large t-shirt too when you come, ok?  When you come?

Ten minutes later, the owner of Alternation Studio, a petite Vietnamese woman and I were comparing a size L to the size XXL. The shirt had the Flight of Honor logo, which she asked about. “Honor Flight,” she said, “what this?” I offered the short answer. “This you wear?” she asked. “No, no, my 91 year-old Veteran friend will wear it when we go to see the World War II Memorial in Washington,” I answered. “Veteran,” she said, her mind working, “I do for him, yes,” and with a bigger smile, said this powerful truth, “If not for Veteran I have no place to come to.”

Two days later, as promised, she produced the transformed size L t-shirt. Knowing how no one likes to wait for something, I delivered the shirt on my way home. At first I had a little trouble explaining how a t-shirt labeled XXL was really a size L, but when he understood that it had been remade just for him, you would have thought he just made a hole-in-one.

Other than t-shirt alterations, the job description of guardian was to accompany the Veterans through airport security, help them board and disembark, sit, walk and talk with them, point out access ramps and restrooms, tote cameras and pill bottles, provide an arm to lean on, circle up chairs under a big tent, and secure our box lunches.  But more importantly, we were there to listen, offer strength, and stand by them as they, the heroes, gazed into the Memorial, reflected on their own thoughts, and opened up the history books of their lives to us on that magnificent day not one of us will ever forget.

I haven’t been able to get that day out of my mind. It was such a privilege and honor to be with those men on such a gift of a day. But I’ve also been thinking about how much my job that day mirrors our job here, as Financial Guardians. We listen and plan, we direct and monitor, we share highs and lows, and offer our support and strength through all the stages of life’s journey.

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