That time I was my grandfather’s guardian for a veteran’s honors flight


Northern Star contributor Jack Baudoin (back) stands in front of the Washington Monument with his grandfather, James Hill, April 20 in Washington D.C.

By Jack Baudoin

My grandfather, James Hill, is one of the greatest men that I know. Above all else, he loves his family, friends and country. His love for his country was evident when he served in the Korean War.

He never talked about it much, but when I was chosen to be his guardian during a veteran’s honors flight to Washington D.C., I got to hear my grandfather’s stories and grow closer to him.

The Greater St. Louis Honor Flight Association hosts many flights throughout the year to honor veterans with a trip to Washington D.C. Once there, the veterans visit memorials and receive honors.

My family signed my grandfather up to go on an April 20 flight and chose me to be his guardian. It was my responsibility to make sure he was staying healthy, drinking water and taking his medication, as well as pushing him around in his wheelchair and being his companion for the day.

I was excited to go on the trip, as I had never been to Washington, D.C. before, but I was also excited to share the once in a lifetime experience with my grandfather.

When we arrived 4 a.m. at Lambert St. Louis Airport, I was excited beyond belief. Getting to meet and talk with veterans, as well as seeing random people thanking them for their service, was an amazing experience. The day had just started, however, and many more amazing things were to come.

After arriving in Baltimore, Maryland, we hopped on a coach bus and traveled to Washington, D.C., where we had a full day visiting memorials such as the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the Korean War Memorial.

Seeing these memorials is something I will always remember. Seeing my grandfather looking at the memorials and hearing him tell stories he had never told anyone was a humbling experience.

The moment that sticks out to me most is a ceremony we watched at the Korean Memorial. Two soldiers came out with an American flag and performed a solemn flag folding ceremony for the veterans.

Watching my grandfather stand to salute the flag and soldiers was one of the most powerful moments of my life. I will never forget it.