What honor looks like: The flash mob at Gate 38 of Reagan National Airport

Honor is a hard term to describe. It doesn’t have a color or weight or shape. If someone were to ask me what honor looked like, I’d probably struggle with what to say.

But something happened on May 23, 2012 at 9:31 a.m. at Gate 38 of Reagan National Airport that might change that.  A flash mob of sorts broke out. But not like you’ve seen on YouTube with highly choreographed dance numbers or people singing a song in unison.  In fact, virtually all of the participants of this “flash mob” didn’t know they would be participating until moments before it happened.

Let me explain.  Shortly before 9:30 over the loud speakers, a US Airways gate attendant announced that an Honor Flight of World War II veterans would be arriving momentarily and encouraged anyone passing by to help greet them.  Five or six people looked like they were officially part of the welcoming committee, and the rest of the people in the secure section of the airport were regular old travelers going somewhere.  Then I had a terrible thought.  What if these veterans came off the plane and just those five or six individuals were there to greet them.  I walked a gate over to help see the veterans out.

But – then it happened and frankly, I wasn’t expecting it.  All throughout the terminal, people left their gates and gathered around gate 38.  A few active military personnel in plain clothes approached the gate attendant and politely asked if they could  join in the salute within the jet way as the heroes first stepped off the plane.  Every human being in the terminal stood at attention and faced the door.

Someone held up an old newspaper from 1945 that had a banner headline that said, “Nazis Quit!”  And when I saw that newspaper, I realized that World War II wasn’t just a chapter in a history book.  It was men and women who saw an evil like the world has never seen before and traveled across the world to meet that evil.  And they defeated it.

I wonder if in 1945, any of those brave soldiers could ever imagine that 67 years later, we’d still be basking in the freedom that they preserved.  And some of those heroes were about to walk through Gate 38.

The first soldier walked through the door.  Old, frail and needing help walking.  And every person I could see in the entire airport stood and applauded.  No – maybe cheered is more like it.

But here’s the thing – the applause didn’t stop.  For a full 20 minutes, as veteran by veteran stepped out of the jet way, the US Airways wing of Reagan National Airport thundered in appreciation.  Travelers stepped out for the opportunity to shake their hand while others held back tears.

This is the America we picture in our heads.  Heroes getting a hero’s welcome and those who enjoy the freedom adequately conveying their gratitude.

Now, I know what honor looks like.


Music in the video is “Thank You Soldier” by Joe Brucato
To view a version of the video with crowd sounds and no music, click here.

2,258 comments for “What honor looks like: The flash mob at Gate 38 of Reagan National Airport

  1. tom Rycroft
    February 14, 2013 at 8:25 pm

    i am writing this for my husband Tom Rycroft who had a simply fantastic time in May 2011 . He was part of 26 from Phoenix and surrounding areas. He has told everyone how he thought this trip was the most remarkable, memorable trip of his lifetime. He had never see the Capitol of his Country and was so impressed. Especially under the dome, he had tears. His entourage taking care of him was wonderful and he will never forget this experience. He has told our Vets to get on the list and go.

    • April 18, 2013 at 7:04 pm

      Unfortunately, when we returned from Vietnam there was no such welcome but I have tears in my eys after wathing the welcome for the World Two Veterans. God Bless them!

      • Dee
        August 29, 2013 at 1:16 am

        I personally applaud you for being a Vietnam Veteran. It is our privilege to have people like you in this country. God Bless you!! and I am sorry that most people were so ignorant to ignore you Heroes at the time you all returned. Bless you and I always appreciated you all Heroes!!

      • Lee Bravo
        September 15, 2013 at 1:21 pm

        My husband fought in Nam for two years, came home, married me and helped me raise two beautiful daughters. Thank you for your service to our country. It’s men and women like you and husband who are Heroes!! Stand and be Proud!

      • mjb
        October 15, 2013 at 10:52 am

        George, My husband was in Vietnam too.. If you were coming off a plane I would (as would my children) stand for you. Maybe someday… But today was WWII day… God bless every service person that has kept American safe. (not to mention the World)

      • Gerald E. Reneau Sr.
        November 12, 2013 at 5:58 pm

        I agree 100% with you Mr. Huber. I too served in Nam and had no welcome home. Not even from my own family. Watching this video brought tears to my eyes as well. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank each & every one of the WWII vets. I’d also like to thank our government for spraying Agent Orange on some of us, causing me to get diagnosed with CLL !!!
        Mr. Gerald E. Reneau Sr.

        • Robert Duron
          March 3, 2014 at 7:46 pm

          Thank You Mr Reneau for your service !!

          Robert Duron
          US. Navy

      • Vicki
        July 5, 2015 at 11:26 am

        Honor was forgotten. Let me say though sir. “Thank you. Thank you for your courage, honor, and sacrifice. God Bless you. “

      • Donnie
        August 15, 2015 at 9:55 am

        Thank you Mr. Huber for your service and sacrifice!!! It saddens me to think that you came home to hatred instead of the love, honor and respect you deserved!!!!

  2. Dale VanBlair
    April 3, 2013 at 10:16 pm

    I went on an Honor Flight Nov. 10-11 last year and had a somewhat similar experience. We didn’t have that many people greet us, but I had numerous people express their appreciation for my service. It was a great experience.

  3. Debra Rosko
    April 10, 2013 at 11:11 pm

    My father was in WWII, Joseph V. Rosko, but sadly is no longer with us. But to see people remember and respect these soldiers and what they stand for…touches my heart. God bless all who fight for our freedom….God Bless America.

  4. Abraham Baron
    April 21, 2013 at 1:20 pm

    As a WW 11 soldier (enlisted) the country had a lot of pride we were one Nation not divided as we seem to be today. Perhaps what has transpired in Boston this week only shows how diligent we need to be NOW in our own country.
    It is truly a shame the division we now have and especially in our elected politicians in Washington that don’t have the guts (as we did in WW 11)to stand up and vote in the recently watered down gun law.

    • ted hartland
      June 11, 2013 at 12:58 pm

      Abraham , My thoughts a

  5. May 23, 2013 at 4:22 pm

    Brought tears to my eyes as i remembered all too well the many friends and room mates i lost. I was very very lucky.

  6. Bert Dempsey
    August 12, 2013 at 12:32 pm

    I was part of a Cleveland Honor Flight May 29th 2013. The greeting that was extended by travelers in the concourse of Cleveland and Baltimore airports at our arrival and departure brought a lump to my throat while tears welled in my eyes. I was a radio officer in the US Merchant Marine and I am proud and lucky to have survived the service I gave my Country. Seeing the monuments of the fallen Men and Women at Arlington brought a fresh appreciation of my survival.

  7. Leslie Lightfoot
    February 18, 2014 at 11:31 pm

    Salute the men & women who put their lives on the line so that we don’t have to speak German or Japanese, from another Viet Nam vet. George and our other brothers, the 1st time that I thanked was from a Vietnamese man about 30 years after being back. Welcome home ya’ll!

    • Kerry Chevalier
      June 6, 2014 at 7:21 pm

      I’m so glad the greatest generation is getting their hearts blessed. I too served in Viet Nam and I also waited 22 years for my first thank you it was from my auto mechanic and I will never forget him quite a difference than what I experienced in California when I got off of the airliner and was not so nicely treated nuf said.

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  10. Ken Marbes
    March 18, 2014 at 4:47 pm

    I have read all of the comments above and not once did I see anybody mention the War we had in Korea. Nam is not the only war that lost a lot of good men. But we should think of all the wars we have sent good men and women into war or police action as they call it. I too served in Korean War and got nothing for it. I too get choked up when I see these old WW2 guys around. Hopefully some day we will not have to send anybody out to fight somebody else war.

  11. Betty Sourgose
    August 23, 2014 at 2:21 pm

    such a wonderful welcoming to our Vets, who deserved every praise, I was born on Guam, my mother was a young lady during the Japanese invasion in the pacific, she told us children of the horrible stories of war, the the rescue of the United States, saving thousands of lives, the Island was so happy at the sighting of the U.S. military forces, she later meet and married my father a cook for the Navy…..the United States military was fighting two battles the Japanese invasion and Germany invasion, back to back, they deserve every stand up cheer. To the Vietnam vets, thank you, and to all the United Service men and women who fought wars, retired or active duty, thank you, for keeping us free. My oldest brother Frank is a retired U.S. Navy Chief Officer, my other brother Charles retired from the U.S. Air Force, my nephew Frank the U.S. Marines, my nephew in-law active duty U.S. Army. their service and love for country was from my father Frank J. Sourgose, who during the Vietnam era fed thousands of wounded soldiers some missing limbs, in wheel chairs, or beds, visible and invisible injuries of war, free full course Italian dinners including wine and beers for those who could drink, every Wednesday night until the end of the war. he felt he needed to give something back to our brave soldiers for the ultimate bravery for our country…… Thank you again from the Sourgose family.

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