When Honor Litter Met Honor Flight

When Honor Litter Met Honor Flight

In my last blog entry we talked about some of the puppy training.  Much of their training will be formal instruction at Warrior Canine Connection Headquarters, but equally important are the weekly field trips to expose the puppies to many diverse situations; after all, they will likely experience all sorts of uncertainty when escorting their veterans, so they need to be ready for anything.

Every once in a while we get an opportunity to do something extra special, like going to the airport to greet an Honor Flight.

Honor Flight is an organization that transports World War II veterans (at no cost to them) from their homes to Washington, DC, to see the World War II memorial — their memorial.  We’re fortunate here in the National Capital Region to have the privilege of welcoming these veterans and their guardians at all the regional airports.  Honor Flight is an organization that I am also passionate about, and combining it with WCC … well … the thought just about sent me over the edge!  The puppies gain the invaluable experience of being in an airport, riding escalators and people movers, people rushing about with suitcases, and TSA pat downs; we get the honor of meeting and greeting the men and women of the Greatest Generation – and they get the hero’s welcome that they never really received when they came home from the war.

Throw in a bunch of puppy kisses and you have a win-Win-WIN!

So, that’s what we did!  Last month, 20 of WCC’s pups visited BWI Marshall Airport to welcome over 500 World War II veterans in full force.  The pups were charged with getting to the airport on time …their photographer, NOT a morning person, was not quite as efficient! 🙂  Their puppy parents and all the WCC volunteers then had to proceed through the TSA screening to the arrival gates – As part of Honor Flight, non-passenger escort passes are issued to volunteer greeters which allow them to welcome the WWII veterans the moment they get off the aircraft — as a side note, this means more to these men and women than I can say in this space.  I can also tell you that, even the sometimes-disagreeable TSA people enjoyed the company of the WCC dogs.  I’m pretty sure that they weren’t really “patting down” the dogs…I think they just wanted to pet them!

Anyway, we finally took muster at the gates, and lined the dogs up next to fellow volunteers from all the armed forces: Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines, to greet the Greatest Generation.  They all formed a great big tunnel, and as these vets got off the airplane to throngs of people applauding wildly, smiling, shaking hands, and hugging.

You could tell something incredibly special was happening!

Annapolis Maryland Pet Photographer :: Warrior Canine Connection

The Honor Litter waiting to meet the Honor Flights!

Warrior Canine Conection Honor Litter :: Maryland Pet Photographer

Leigh Ann, wondering why in the world she was awake at such an early hour!

Warrior Canine Conection Honor Litter :: Maryland Pet Photographer

Bright eyed and bushy tailed, Gavin was ready to rock and roll!

Warrior Canine Conection Honor Litter :: Maryland Pet Photographer

Although it was early, Nick was more than happy have his ears scratched by this Sailor!

Warrior Canine Conection Honor Litter :: Maryland Pet Photographer

Derek was ready to charm the TSA agents!

Warrior Canine Conection Honor Litter :: Maryland Pet Photographer

I bet TSA agents wish every pat down was a fun as it was with Bre!

Warrior Canine Conection Honor Litter :: Maryland Pet Photographer

Cody was not in the least bit impressed with anything that happened that early in the morning!

Maryland Pet Photographer::Warrior Canine Conection Honor Litter

With a little coaxing from Roger, Stanley conquered the people mover!

Maryland Pet Photographer::Warrior Canine Conection Honor Litter

Nick, waiting to see what comes next.

While we waited at the gates for the flights to arrive, there were lots of Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Navy midshipmen for the puppies to greet!

Maryland Pet Photographer::Warrior Canine Conection Honor Litter

Gavin was happy to wish everyone a good morning!

Maryland Pet Photographer::Warrior Canine Conection Honor Litter

I’m telling you, Nick is a girl magnet!

Maryland Pet Photographer::Warrior Canine Conection Honor Litter

Leigh Ann’s smile can’t help but draw attention!

Maryland Pet Photographer::Warrior Canine Conection Honor Litter

Warm sunshine, friendly Soldiers, wonderful ear scratches – Derek was one happy puppy!

Maryland Pet Photographer::Warrior Canine Conection Honor Litter

Leigh Ann was starting to feel a bit like a movie star!

Maryland Pet Photographer::Warrior Canine Conection Honor Litter

Every weekend, midshipmen from the US Naval Academy come out to greet the Honor Flights

As the first plane full of veterans pulled to the gate, everyone lined up, excited to give the warmest and most heartfelt greeting they possibly could!

Maryland Pet Photographer::Warrior Canine Conection Honor Litter

The bar for future air travel has been raised really, really high for this little passenger! 🙂

Maryland Pet Photographer::Warrior Canine Conection Honor Litter

A day they will never forget!

Maryland Pet Photographer::Warrior Canine Conection Honor Litter

Smiles upon smiles as the vets saw the puppies!

Maryland Pet Photographer::Warrior Canine Conection Honor Litter

The excitement was contagious!

The dogs were really phenomenal … some of the Honor Litter pups were a little sleepy (reveille was EARLY!), but they had an astounding impact on everyone they met, young and old.
One particularly poignant moment came early in the morning, when Stanley met his namesake’s widow, Mrs. Gloria Giza.  Stanley’s puppy parent, Roger, presented Mrs. Giza with an amazing plaque to commemorate her husband’s service.  Mrs. Giza was clearly touched, and there weren’t many dry eyes around!  The lovely lady standing behind Mrs Giza is Pam, Stanley and Gloria Giza’s daughter.  Their grand daughter, while not shown in this picture, was also there.  Three generations of the Giza family all showering their love on WCC Stanley – it was wonderful!

Annapolis Maryland Pet Photographer

Stanley, named for WWII hero PFC Stanley Giza, USMC, spent some time with his namesake’s widow

Maryland Pet Photographer

Gavin started to lose a little steam, so he took a little break.

Maryland Pet Photographer :: Warrior Canine Connection

Nick also needed a little shut eye

Annapolis Maryland Pet Photographer :: Warrior Canine Connection

Stanley looking very dapper in a midshipman cover


Annapolis Maryland Pet Photographer :: Warrior Canine Connection

So, so sleepy

Annapolis Maryland Pet Photographer :: Warrior Canine Connection

I’m not sure who adored the other one more

Annapolis Maryland Pet Photographer :: Warrior Canine Connection

Bre certainly enjoyed being the center of attention

I would like to share a letter sent to me from a dear, sweet lady who (along with her husband) serves as a guardian on multiple flights a year from Rhode Island.   She perfectly expressed just how much this day, and the Warrior Canine Connection dogs meant to the WWII vets.

I’ve wanted to send you a note about the greeting our veterans received from the Warrior Canine Connection dogs and volunteers at BWI.  For our World War II veterans, the Honor Flight trip is one that is anticipated with great excitement, but we are also well aware that these brave men and women are in their late 80s and 90s and have a variety of health issues. They are often unused to travel and for many, they seldom spend time away from their families or caregivers.  We can add to that that this trip also often dredges up deep emotions, sometimes not explored in many years. In a nutshell, as excited as our heroes are to finally see their memorial in Washington, DC, they are also often quite apprehensive.  When we step out on to the concourse at BWI, the veterans are welcomed by uniformed members of the U.S. Navy and our veterans are delighted and moved and often overcome by emotion.  Some cry and a few are bewildered by this outpouring of gratitude.  It is an extraordinarily emotional time for us all.  On September 28th, after the Navy personnel greeted the veterans, our heroes were welcomed by the sweetest, friendliest, furriest group of supporters – the Warrior Canine Connection pups and dogs (along with their human trainers, of course!).  I watched in amazement as the veterans broke into wide smiles and almost instantly connected with the puppies and adult dogs.  The men and women in wheelchairs reached out and stroked the heads of the dogs and planted kisses on the heads of puppies being held in the arms of the WCC volunteers.  I found myself grinning and looked around to see my fellow guardians oohing and ahhing over our canine greeters right along with our WWII veterans.
My veteran, 91-year-old Richard Curry, told me several times throughout the day how beautiful the dogs were and how happy he was to have seen them that morning.  It clearly had made a positive and lasting impression on him.
Thank you to all the generous and thoughtful WCC volunteers who took the time to come to the airport with their dogs to greet our Honor Flight veterans.  You made a difference!
Holly Susi
Providence, RI

Annapolis Maryland Pet Photographer :: Warrior Canine Connection

Derek touched the hearts and kissed the cheeks of as many vets as possible

Warrior Canine Conection Honor Litter :: Maryland Pet Photographer

Leigh Ann was especially happy to greet these wonderful men and women

Warrior Canine Conection Honor Litter :: Maryland Pet Photographer

This gentleman mentioned how much he loved the puppies several times throughout the day


Nick spent as much time as possible with the vets before they boarded the buses.


Everyone loved Nick!

As the vets boarded the buses, the dogs stood by, as if to wish them well on their day, as another successful mission for WCC’s animals (and my buddies from the Honor Litter!) drew to a close.
The next installment will be something a little different, but a continuation of this blog — I was invited to actually ride along with one of the Honor Flight groups, the Rhode Island Association of Fire Chiefs Honor Flight … I can’t wait to tell you about my experiences!

What do you think?  Tell us in the comments below or head over to my facebook page!

Until next time, have joy in your heart, a smile on your face, and a dog by your side!




19 Responses

  1. Mom C

    Absolutely amazing photos, as always! Thanks so much, Bonnie, for sharing this heartwarming experience with us through picture & words! Wish we had been there with you.

  2. Linda D.

    This story brought tears to my eyes seeing the connection that these wonderful dogs made with our heroes. Thank you so much for sharing this story with us!

  3. Kathy M

    a wonderful & moving tribute to an amazing day for the veterans & the WCC Honor Litter pups.

  4. Debbie Giese

    Thank you so much for sharing your experience Bonnie. Your pictures and description of the day really made me feel like I was right there. Wonderful experience for puppy parents, puppies, veterans and everyone else that was there. I don’t think anyone will forget that morning.

  5. I loved reading and seeing the pictures you have posted. Being able to see the excitement in the Veteran’s eyes and faces as everyone greeted them including all the fur friends is so touching. You are awesome with your dedication to this wonderful cause. Thanks for sharing so everyone can see and read about the experience too. HUGS to you all!!!!

  6. Diane Christofferson

    Thank you Bonnie for sharing that wonderful experience. It is a nice way to enter into the Veteran’s Day weekend.

  7. Jill Hudgens

    Bonnie, thank you so much for sharing your wonderful photos. I got tears in my eyes when I read about Stanley meeting his namesake’s widow, and the plaque that Stanley’s puppy parent made for her. I am so happy that WCC participated in this event and hope there are many more to follow. Thank you again for sharing this event with us through your beautiful photography

  8. Donna A

    Beautiful pictures and a big thank you for sharing this wonderful event. I have chills, tears and a big smile on my face reading and looking at the pictures. I felt that I was there right along with you, You did a beautiful job right along with our Heros, WCC, Puppy Parents and the big dogs as well as the pups.

  9. Cindy Meyers

    This tribute to the Honor Flights by the Honor Litter has moved me to tears, touched my heart and filled me with pride! All your breathtaking photos captured the spirit of that special day! No words can express the love I feel for the work of the Warrior Canine Connection….they are changing lives! Bonnie may you be richly blessed for this article and photos….you have blessed my life beyond belief with this tribute!

  10. Janet Martin

    What a wonderful experience for both you and the puppies. You did a great job capturing this special day. Looking forward to more pictures and stories. Thank you so much for sharing this with us.

  11. Terrie Bates

    Bonnie thanks for writing about your experience meeting the Honor Flights with the Honor Litter and other K9s from WCC. I had seen some pictures earlier, but your written account, the note from Holly and your poignant photographs really helped us feel the emotion of the day. Was a pleasure to meet you last weekend at graduation!

  12. Paula McCorry

    Thank you Bonnie! You continue to grab the hearts of many with your blog! It was great seeing you last weekend at the graduation! Can’t wait until the next “installment” is published!

  13. C. Dorsey

    What ways can I get involved. I would love to learn the training process and help with WCC. Or start my own Greeting Committee in Oklahoma if there already isn’t one. My Dad died 3 yrs ago June and was a WW2 vet. He was scheduled for HF but got bumped off and died before we could get him on the next one. Battle of the Bulge Army 18th Field Artillery Batt. I want to honor my dad, another dog lover by helping somehow.

  14. Liz McClure

    Wonderful post, the photos were amazing – I was a puppy-petter throughout the summer for the Honor Litter and love seeing them ‘in action’. 🙂
    Minor note, the 5th branch of the military is the Coast Guard – over 200,000 were active in WWII, and hundreds lost lives in combat. Perhaps none were on this Honor Flight, but wanted to be sure they were included in ‘all’ military branches. (My husband just retired after 22 years of CG service)

  15. What a heartwarming story and awesome photos, Bonnie! You really captured the excitement and emotions of the day. Many thanks for the great work you’re doing on behalf of WCC.

  16. Barbars

    I wish there was a program like this in Sacramento, CA. I would there full-time. The two things that are near and dear to my heart in one place….Love, love to see your page.

  17. nancy schunter

    Happy Veteran’s Day!

  18. Gail

    What wonderful pictures. You can see the happiness and love. Thank you so much for sharing.

  19. Michelle

    Thank you for writing this and posting these photos. This is all so heartwarming. I love the WCC so much!

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