DFW International Airport is a bastion of endless activity. People, baggage, cars and planes come and go at every hour of the day and night without pause. In this constant hub of motion, there seems little time to stop and reflect on the sacrifices of others. However, in observance of Memorial Day, an honor guard held flag folding ceremonies in the concourse near gate C-4 on May 16 to remind those who chose to attend, as well as people passing by, the price of our freedom is steep and should never be forgotten.
“We want to convey to our passengers and co-workers that Memorial Day is a day for remembering our fallen heroes, those who made the ultimate sacrifice for us,” said Robert Velasquez, American Airlines’ Fleet Service Clerk, United States Air Force 1982 to 1986. “Every hour we have a flag folding ceremony. Earlier, we presented Rod Cushing, a Coast Guard veteran, the flag. We also presented Mr. Ivan Delgado a flag. Now we’re going to present a flag to Tuskegee Airmen Sgt. Homer Hogues.”
Delgado is an employee of American Airlines and is also an active reservist in the Navy.
“A lot of people take Memorial Day for granted. I think when they see the ceremony and they see how moving it is, they realize this is the true meaning of Memorial Day. To see the look on the passenger faces, to see some people actually break down in tears, is very moving. A lot of people stop and thank us for what we’re doing.
“When you see somebody in uniform, just remember that person signed the dotted line to make the ultimate sacrifice. Hopefully that’s not going to happen, but in today’s world it happens way too often. Sometimes we need to remind people how important the military is whether we are talking about freedom of press, freedom of religion or freedom of speech, know that wouldn’t be possible if it wasn’t for our U.S. military,” Velasquez said.
William Harris, a baggage handler for American Airlines, served in the United States Marine Corps from 1985 to 1989. He serves today as the honor guard’s flag folder. Over time, he has seen the public’s attitude towards military personnel improve dramatically.
“When I was in, we never got any of this,” Harris said referring to the Memorial Day remembrance. “Vietnam veterans were not treated well when they came home by the protesters. These people write checks with their lives, and some unfortunately cash them out.
“Now, in the 21st century people are starting to appreciate what the military is doing for them, and they are understanding a little bit more. It is just a nice gesture for us to offer to the people who deserve it.
“I am very honored and proud to do anything that I can for the veterans who have served, even if they served in peacetime and didn’t do any active duty when there was a war going on. It doesn’t matter, people still have to serve,” he said.
Fellow honor guard member, Eric Garcia, also an American Airlines bag handler, is preparing to be deployed as a Boatswain’s Mate second class, U.S. Navy Reserves.
“I feel proud of what the honor guard does,” Garcia said. “I am happy to do it and I really enjoy it. I do it with honor and also a lot of respect for all those soldiers, especially the fallen soldiers they transport to the airport. On days like Memorial Day, I feel very proud of the whole team, because of how we perform and because of our dedication.
“People are pretty positive when they see us at the airport. They are proud. Even sometimes our own co-workers will come up and shake our hands and say thank you. It makes you feel good,” he said.
An honor guard holding a flag folding ceremony in the middle of a lively airport concourse is an impressive event to witness. Far more impressive, however, was the crowd’s reaction to honoree Tuskegee Airmen Homer Hogues, Staff Sgt. Army Air Corps Retired. After he was presented the flag, a line of people assembled to greet the aging war hero.
“It’s great to meet all these wonderful people out here,” Hogues said. “I think it’s a great event. Memorial Day means a lot to me to remember those fallen soldiers and those who didn’t live to see it, but they are remembered here at the DFW Airport.
“It’s wonderful to see all those children who look up to me and remember what I had to go through with. Above all, I tell them to look up to their God, obey their parents and obey their teachers,” he said.
Hogues’ daughter Barbara and his great-grandson Darryl accompanied him to the event.
“He told me once that since they were in the military and out all these years, one experience that he’s learned is that if you keep on living people will recognize you. If you just do what you are supposed to do, eventually it’s going to get back around to you,” Barbara said.