Detroit to Paris: Honoring Veterans of D-Day

Airplane in blue sky

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Detroit to Paris: Honoring Veterans of D-Day

By Earl Perkins | published June 5, 2014 |
Thursday Review associate editor

Many people are quick to talk trash about Detroit and all its problems, but a recent moving moment at Detroit Metro Airport has to make you smile.

Everybody was rushing about as they often do at airports, but suddenly there was total silence except for the music. A DTW gate agent keyed the loudspeaker microphone and serenaded the listeners with a wonderful rendition of the national anthem.

Anna Marie Barile's fellow workers had heard her sing before, but a wider audience appreciated her tribute to a group of World War II veterans awaiting Delta flight 98 headed to Paris.

When it was announced over the public address system that 12 veterans were en route to Europe, including at least one man who would attend an Omaha Beach event recognizing D-Day's 70th anniversary, hundreds of fellow travelers gave a standing ovation.

Traveler Alyssa Vermeulen was especially touched by the experience while awaiting a flight to her Italian honeymoon (via Paris). She noted the episode was a great contrast to the usual airport ordeal, later posting a YouTube video she captured with her phone.

"I was worried that something had happened (when she saw the big crowd), but when I asked my husband, he said that we had several WWII veterans on the plane," she said. "Shortly after, the flag appeared out of the gate and everyone stood for the national anthem.

"It was a lovely display of patriotism in such a crazy place. Usually, airports are a high stress environment where people are rushing to connections, frantically gathering items, or anxiously waiting (for) their zone call to board, but for a few minutes everyone in the airport was standing, quiet and peaceful, showing respect to those who fought for our freedom."

Vermeulen was very excited about the outpouring of support, noting several veterans are in her family, including a grandfather who served as a Marine in the Second World War. The pilot thanked each veteran by name over the PA system, informing everyone in the cabin as they passed over Normandy.

"The respect continued on the plane," Vermeulen said, when "everyone stopped to thank these men for (their) service. One of the veterans also celebrated his 95th birthday on the plane and everyone sang to him before we deplaned.

"It truly was beautiful—and it made the long plane ride—that would usually be filled with complaints of small bathrooms and uncomfortable seats take on a whole new meaning of gratitude for what we are so lucky to have."

Related Thursday Review articles:

The Last Fellows of Easy Company; Earl Perkins; Thursday Review; March 18, 2014.