From the Archivist of the United States
11/19/2015 12:00 am
NARA Joins in Honoring Veterans
By David S. Ferriero
Archivist of the United States
When Doug Swanson, the visitor services manager for the National
Archives Museum, saw a group of veterans getting a special tour one
morning last spring, he was curious.
"The vast majority of the folks taking the tour were elderly men in
wheelchairs and dressed alike with hats saying WWII Veteran,” Doug
recalls. “I asked if they were an Honor Flight and was told they were.”
got me thinking...why don't we see these Honor Flights visiting the
National Archives on a regular basis? They take an oath to ‘preserve,
protect, and defend the Constitution’ when they enter the armed services
and I’m sure many of them have never had the chance to view the
document they were fighting to protect.”
Doug followed up and
got in touch with folks at the Honor Flight Network to ask if they would
be interested in making a stop at the Archives a regular part of the
Washington tour for Honor Flight veterans. They were.
and their families are our biggest group of customers, since we hold
their military files in our National Personnel Records Center in St.
Louis. Whenever a veteran, or his family, needs a document from his or
her file, we can get it to them quickly. We also hold unit records and
other military documents dating to the Revolutionary War.
of World War II veterans are dying every day, and some of those who are
still with us are fortunate to get aboard an Honor Flight to
Washington, D.C. Each one has a volunteer or family member to serve as
an escort and, if necessary (as it so often is), push a wheelchair.
National Archives recently hosted its third Honor Flight and the
veteran contingent included 33 from World War II, 54 from the Korean
War, and two from the Vietnam War—all of them from Minnesota and the
One of them, Milton Arneson, 87, of Moorhead, Minnesota,
is a veteran of World War II as well as Korea and Vietnam. He was a
pilot-in-training in World War II, then an Air Force pilot in Korea and
One of his favorite stories is about the time he
brought U.S. troops in Korea a shipment of white socks, Hershey bars and
flea powder -- “and none of them wanted anything but the flea powder!”
Another visitor was John Fiandaca, 89, also of
Moorhead. Just after the war in Europe ended, he was assigned to the
Munich Central Collection Point. There, he worked with the Monuments Men
in picking up and delivering recovered art looted by the Nazis whose
owners were being located.
Network is a non-profit organization created solely to honor America’s
veterans for all their sacrifices. They transport our heroes to
Washington, D.C., to visit and reflect at their respective memorials.
Top priority is given to the senior veterans – World War II survivors, along with other veterans who may be terminally ill.
flights originating east of the Mississippi River bring veterans for a
one-day tour. Flights from west of the Mississippi provide an overnight
stay since it takes longer for the round trip.
from hubs all around the country, and Doug has already been in touch
with and reserved tour dates for hubs in Texas, Utah, California and
I was honored to spend about an hour with these veterans in
the Rotunda of our building in downtown Washington as they viewed the
Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.
This group of veterans also got to see the Japanese Instrument of
Surrender, which was the “featured document” at the time of their visit.
thanks to Honor Flights, many more veterans will be able to visit
Washington, albeit briefly, and see these Charters of Freedom.
a veteran myself, I want to thank those who make these flights
possible. They offer veterans the chance to see the memorials for the
war or wars they fought in. Now they allow veterans to see the documents
that created the way of life they defended.