70 years after their service to the United States, about 30 “Rosie the Riveters” were honored with their very own Honor Flight trip to Washington. These women worked during the war at jobs traditionally done by men, such as churning out bombers at Ford Motor Co.’s Willow Run plant in Michigan. One of them was the inspiration for the iconic Rosie character that came to symbolize female empowerment and the “we’re-in-this-together” spirit of the American Homefront.
This Honor Flight, carrying the women who stepped up to the plate generations before to support our allied forces, landed into Reagan National Airport on the morning of Tuesday, March 22nd 2016. A very large crowd of service men and women, children’s choirs, spectators with welcome signs, and our own NHPCO staff were awaiting to cheer on 30 plus “Rosie’s” as they stepped off the plane. Many of the women chose to exit their wheelchairs and walk when they saw the excitement that awaited them.
Cheers echoed from the crowds until every single “Rosie” dressed in Honor Flight red cardigans and adorned with bandanas had left the plane. The ladies appeared ready for their day.
It wasn’t easy to get pictures as these women made their way down the hall – everyone wanted a handshake or a hug. I decided to make my way towards the end of the line where I overheard a woman greeting each “Rosie” and saying “Thank you. Your service paved the way for me.” It turned out that woman in the wheelchair I was standing beside was Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth, an Iraq War Veteran.
What felt like a big event at the airport was just the start to their day in Washington. The women and their family members headed to lunch at the Library of Congress, followed by another special welcome as their bus pulled up to the WW II Memorial. It was the most beautiful sunny day; the energy from these women and smiles on their faces told so much about the experience they were having.
As the women spread out to visit their states at the memorial, I was able to speak to a couple of them. These guests of honor were quite popular at the memorial, and it wasn’t long before a news crew bumped me from my prime spot to get their own interview. It was then that one of the “Rosie’s” sons, who had accompanied his mother, began telling me how important this day was for these women. He said, “They were never honored. Not the way they should have been.”
Honoring veterans at the end of Life has been a priority for The National Hospice and Palliative Organization. NHPCO’s program We Honor Veterans understands the importance of acknowledging Veteran’s unique needs at the end-of-life. As stated in the We Honor Veteran’s website, “Hospice staff may provide the last opportunity for Veterans to feel that their service was not in vain, and that they are appreciated. Simple acts of gratitude at the end-of-life can make up for a lack of appreciation or recognition during the Veteran’s lifetime, especially for those Veterans who were never welcomed home or thanked for their service.”
After their visit to the WWII Memorial, the women were scheduled to see a special and very popular ceremony of The Changing of the Guard at Arlington National Cemetery. The “Rosie’s” had front row seats.
The ceremony ended in a silent dismissal, and the women headed back to the airport.
I took a moment to reflect on what it must have been like for a woman who was around 20 years old during WWII, maintaining the home-front and going off to work in factories while many of their loved ones were overseas fighting. They had to be so strong. That is exactly the way they appeared to me on this day.
This was their day to be honored. It was an honor for me to be able to see it and understand more of what Rosie the Riveters did for their country and for women generations to come. Thank you, Rosie the Riveters for your service!
Blog and Pictures by Elizabeth Schneider – NHPCO Communications