This photo is one of those once in a lifetime photo ops. This was taken at the Fresno International Airport in Fresno, California in April of last year. This was the Welcome Home celebration for a group of World War II veterans who had just spent a couple days in Washington, DC being honored for their service to their country and getting to visit their World War II Memorial.
This was a VERY special time for me and a great honor because the lady in the photograph with me is very special to me. She is my former mother-in-law, but even more than that she has been one of my best friends in life, for nearly 40 years and continues to be so. Her name is Bonnie June Gardner, but she goes by her initials, BJ. She served in the medical corps of the U.S. Navy.
It was especially an honor for me since my own father was a WWII veteran of the U.S. Army Air Corps, but, unfortunately, I will never have the opportunity and honor of celebrating his contribution to our country since he died 49 years ago. So, BJ not only represented herself in my eyes, but she also represented my father.
Her ancestors came to the New World on the Mayflower and, if I remember correctly, she is a member of the D.A.R. (Daughters of the American Revolution). She's the mother of my former wife, Cynthia, who is still a good friend, and to her six brothers and one sister, all my “brothers and sister.” She's also the grandmother to my son, Pete.
This was quite a celebration. There was a band, cheerleaders, a military honor guard and a bagpipe corps. The airport was filled with people there to welcome back these very special people. I believe the oldest on the trip was 99 years old. There were five women veterans, I believe, and BJ may have been the oldest of the women.
Thank you, BJ, for your service. As a veteran myself, I know how important it is to be remembered for the time and sacrifice you made. Live free and be happy. EH