WASHINGTON DC - You can make a difference just by putting a smile on someone's face. The folks I ran into during the Permian Basin Honor Flight did just that for the dozens of veterans on the trip.
"My father passed away before the WWII memorial was even built, so part of my motivation for doing this is in honor of him,” Stan Wilhelm said.
Wilhelm is just one player on a team of volunteers who set up shop at the World War II Memorial in Washington D.C.
"Play music from the 1940's era to make the World War II veterans feel at home, and we do some swing dancing to have them reminisce about what was the big music and entertainment when they were young men and women going off to fight WWII,” Wilhelm said.
They schedule their appearances when various honor flights are visiting the memorial. This appearance, however, held a special place in Wilhelm's heart.
“My father was in the Air Force, stationed at Dyess AFB in Abilene,” Wilhelm said.
He told me he was thrilled just to hear those West Texas town names again: San Angelo, Odessa and Midland, all in the district he played sports against.
"My last two years of high school were at Cooper High School, where I graduated,” Wilhelm said.
He even taught me some moves while the veterans took to the make-shift dance floor themselves. Wilhelm said the veterans thank him for what he does...while he says, it's the least he could do for what they've already done.
"It really makes you think that they really are the greatest generation,” Wilhelm said.
"It feels really good to be able to serve in the way that I can, in the ways that I'm gifted and give just a little bit back for what they've done,” Benjamin said.
This is Ashley Harris, Sara Benjamin and Melissa Castillo. They're all Victory Belles. This group is based in New Orleans at the National World War II Museum. They travel all over the country and the world, bringing the "good old days" with them.
"It's really a head-to-toe look to nail polish to gloves being super white, and it is a transformation we get to experience and it takes us back,” Castillo said.
With hours of preparation and rehearsals, mixed in with their full-time jobs, one of the things that's most difficult to perfect...the hair.
"It takes some experimentation until you get it right,” Harris said.
“Yeah, it really makes you appreciate how much they had to do in the 1940's to achieve this look on a daily basis,” Benjamin said.
Despite the battle with bobby pins, they tell me when it's show time, every single second is magic.
"Seeing the reactions of the veterans and getting to be able to share this music. Veterans would come up to us often and tell us snippets of their past and we hear some touching, sometimes sad, but sometimes joyful things. That can be a little painful and then they'd come see us perform and it gives them the joy of the time."
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