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We can’t all be heroes. But we can all thank them.

It’s not often enough, in this crazy industry, that an opportunity arises to do good work and make a difference in the world. To make even one person’s life better, happier, and more fulfilled. This past fall, I was given the opportunity here at GSD&M to do all of that. And then some.

Honor Flight Austin, a non-profit organization that honors Austin’s veterans, requested our help with marketing and branding. They raise money to transport our nation’s heroes to Washington, D.C. to visit and reflect at their memorials. To enjoy a day of honor, remembrance and celebration from a proud and grateful nation.

When I was first briefed on the assignment, I was instantly passionate about it. Not only do I believe that the Honor Flight program is a wonderful cause– it also happens to be one I have a personal tie to.

My maternal grandfather, Robert W. Kentner, LT, USN, was a WWII veteran and POW. He kept a diary during his 3.5 years in a Japanese prison camp where he documented when prisoners passed away and of what causes. He managed to hide this from the Japanese and bring it home with him to help bring some of his fellow prisoners’ families closure.

Like most WWII veterans, he didn’t like to talk about his experiences during the war. And rarely shared much, until later in his life. I had a very close relationship with him and was lucky enough to hear some of his stories first hand. I am so grateful for the 22 unforgettable years I was able to share with him. He showed me how to truly enjoy life, appreciate family and friends, and to always see the good in people. He’s without a doubt one of my greatest heroes.

As I started diving into the Honor Flight assignment, it quickly became much more than an “assignment” for me. I volunteered to be a Veteran Guardian on a flight in my grandfather’s honor and I was beyond excited about the opportunity. I was paired up with Navy veteran, Bernard Snyder, the second coolest WWII veteran there is.

As a guardian, it was my job to stick by Bernard’s side at all times, assist him as needed and ensure his safety during the trip. I was prepared and honored to do just that, but had no idea how much I’d be getting in return.

We left on a Friday and returned the following day. During the seven hours spent sitting next to Bernard on the plane to and from DC, and all of the activities in between, I learned so much. And I gained a new friend. These brave men and women truly are “the greatest generation” and I was reminded of that fact countless times during my trip. It was a humbling, unforgettable experience I will be forever grateful for.

 

Check out the work we did for Honor Flight Austin here.

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