45th Space Wing Officer honored to be part of Honor Flight

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Alicia Wallace
  • 45th Space Wing Public Affairs
Every year, the Space Coast Honor Flight Program sends hundreds of World War II veterans to see their memorials and other monuments in Washington D.C. free of charge. According to Honor Flight officals, there are approximately 9,600 veterans who live in Brevard County alone.

My first experience with Honor Flight last Saturday morning rattled my world and gave me an even greater appreciation for the sacrifices these surviving heroes made to protect our freedom. I found that although I had deep respect and admiration for all the WWII veterans, being a women serving in the Air Force gave me a deep connection with the women veterans who served in the war.

There was one woman in particular that I had the honor of speaking with who was 93 years old and had seen her fair share of war.

Her name is Edythe Sweeney, and she served in the Women's Army Corps as a cryptographer. She lived in Australia during the war and had done some amazing things while she served in the war, including being involved with the Navajo code talkers who encrypted messages to keep the Japanese from obtaining intelligence.

Ms. Sweeney had received a presidential ribbon for her service in the war effort. Although her excellent health and achievements astonished and impressed me, nothing touched my heart more than her humility and enthusiasm for the country she had served. She told me that she was grateful of her time in service and would not have chosen an alternative
route for her life.

Another incredible woman I spoke with who had served in the military before my time was Shirley Burgelin. She had served in the Marine Corps during the Vietnam Era working intelligence. Although Burgelin went through the same training as the men working on the war front, she said her job mainly consisted of handling documents.

She said, "The motto back then was 'To free a man to fight.'" Hearing her message moved me because I am aware that the opportunities I have as a women in the military today were unheard of back then.

Speaking with these veterans has humbled me and given me a new perspective on my role as a military member. Those women who have served before me carved a path that has lead me to where I am today with great prospects in my future, and those men who served so bravely in a war where an impossible number of friends have died by their side have guaranteed my freedom.

I cannot express the gratitude I feel for every one of them.