Written by Jenny Smiechowski, staff writer for The Birches
Birches resident Mike Meier is a lucky man. Right when he entered active duty in the U.S. Navy, the Korean War was coming to an end. In fact, the destroyer he was assigned to returned from Korea the week before he came aboard.
But even though Mike didn’t go to war, he still dedicated himself to the country in important ways. He was a Navy communications officer who managed 16 signalmen (the men who are responsible for sending naval signals). He was also a crypto-security officer, which means he had top-secret and crypto-graphic clearance (the highest military clearance level).
As a serviceman who dedicated years of his life to our country, Mike deserves recognition and gratitude. And on September 12, he got exactly that. He received a “Day of Honor” compliments of the nonprofit Honor Flight Chicago.
Honor Flight Chicago is part of a larger Honor Flight Network nationwide that gives veterans the experience of a lifetime— a one-day trip to Washington D.C. so they can visit all the memorials that honor their service.
On the day of his Honor Flight, Mike left his apartment at The Birches at 3:00 am to head to Midway Airport with his son. At Midway, he met up with about 100 other veterans and their traveling companions (usually family members) and they all hopped on a flight to Washington.
Once they arrived, they got a whirlwind tour of the World War II Memorial, the Korean War Memorial and the Vietnam Memorial. They also went to the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument and the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum—the last of which was Mike’s favorite part of the trip.
“I’ve been an aviation buff all my life. When I was growing up during World War II, I put myself to sleep imagining being a fighter pilot,” Mike said.
Mike never fulfilled his aviation dreams, because they were too dangerous. His mom and soon-to-be-wife didn’t approve. But he doesn’t regret it. He saw many of his high school and college friends die in naval aviation accidents and knows he might not be here today if he had pursued his passion for flying. His time in the navy came with enough adventure for a lifetime anyhow. He traveled throughout the world, including places like Syria, Lebanon, Nova Scotia and Brazil.
After a full day in D.C., Mike and his fellow veterans flew back to Chicago, arriving at Midway at 9:00 pm. They were all (understandably) exhausted after a long day. But, according to Mike, they were also honored and exhilarated by the opportunity to see their sacrifice recognized in such a profound way.
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