Today I have a very special guest on my blog, Cindy Mutrux. I am blessed to have met her on the Karen Dye Ministries Fun Bus just last year. Being able to call her friend is such an honor. I can’t thank her enough for giving us a glimpse into this special organization.
Thank you, Veronica for asking me to be a guest on her blog.
My name is, Cindy Mutrux. On July 3, 2012 I was a guardian for the Central Missouri Honor Flight (CMHF.) The CMHF flies WWII veterans to Washington D.C. to see their WWII monument. Before I tell you about this trip I want to first tell you how I became involved with the CMHF. My husband and I, at the time owned two stores in Columbia, Missouri. Everyday at my store. I would have this sweet precious women come for coffee or a coke. As time went on, we just really made a connection with one another. It wasn’t until one day, another customer asked me “Cindy, did you know that lady flew air planes in WWII?” I was in complete amazement and knew I needed to learn more about her.
When she came in the next day, that’s when a true friendship began with us. One I will cherish for the rest of my life. I asked her about her service in the military. She looked at me as if she were in shock. Her response as most veterans. “I was just doing my job”. Then she began her story. You couldn’t have pulled me away for nothing at that moment.
Captain Mary Birch Nirmair was one of 1,200 women who signed up for the WASP unit to serve her country. As time passed our friendship grew and grew. Do you know the book Tuesdays with Morrie? It honestly was something like that. I would learn more and more about this incredible hero.
Here are just a few of her accomplishments: Pilot then promoted to Captain, White House reporter, worked in the Pentagon (Dept of Defense), teacher, business owner, wife, mother of 4, grandmother, great-grandmother. Trust me, this is a short list. Most importantly, she was a Christian women. One quick story:
She married a military man. They both happened to be in Paris on Christmas eve. She said it was beautiful. As they walked the streets of Paris. He asked “Mary, what is one thing special I can get you for Christmas?” Her response “Just go to church with me.” She said her husband was a believer, but resistant to going to church. He looked into her eyes and replied “Is there anything else you would want more?” In a firm voice she replied “I will be in church on Christmas Day, be there or be single next Christmas.” On Christmas Day, she sat in this beautiful church in Paris waiting for the service to begin by herself. As the pastor began the service, she looked to her left to see her husband standing looking over her with a tear in his eyes. He sat down beside her and whispered in her ear. “Merry Christmas, I love you.” As I write this, I begin to tear up. I remember so well her telling me this story at Christmas time.
Moving forward. I had learned of the CMHF and knew I had to get Mary on that plane to Washington D.C to see the WWII monument. Sooo….. without her knowing it (I don’t suggest you do this) I filled out the paperwork and sent it in. I then had to tell her what I had done. At first, she really wasn’t happy me for doing that. Keep in mind 99 percent of our veterans will say “I was just doing my job.” To her and later with her children, her service was no big deal. She did a job that was hers to do and now she was just “mom.” But to me and thousands of others, her services was a HUGE deal. Mary, was 89 years old and aging at a rapid pace by this time. The year before her precious son, Greg died of a brain aneurysm. Greg was not only a Black Hawk Helicopter Captain but he was her baby boy. His death had taken a major toll on her mind and body. I knew if she were going on this trip, the time had to be soon.
The only way she would come, is if I accompanied her. I had to explain to her that the Honor Flight’s rules allowed only trained retired military or medical personnel on the trip and I did not qualify under those circumstances. She then refused to go on the trip. I called the CMHF and explained the situation to them. I understood the position they were in and knew rules were in place for a reason. I prayed to God, asking him to change Mary’s mind. I knew He was the only One who could succeed. Succeed He did, I just never expected it to happen in such a remarkable way.
A month later, I received a call from CMHF saying “it has been arranged for you to accompany Mary as her aid on the flight.” Honestly, I didn’t ask questions, I agreed to all the rules they had set before me, paid $300.00 airline ticket and praised God for His answered prayer.
I was able to accompany her on this trip of a lifetime and learn so much more about her. After taking the trip to Washington D.C., she later admitted she was very happy she had done so. It was an honor for me to be among all these American Hero’s. Two months after the Honor Flight, Mary received an invite from the President of the Untied States, requesting she come to the White House. At the White House Mary was awarded one of the top honors a person can receive. President Obama placed around her neck, the Congressional Gold Medal of Honor, for her military service in WWII. When the media found out of this honor, she was inundated with requests for interviews, speaking engagements and special engagements at area schools. We were so busy, I thought we might have to hire her a security detail of her own. Eventually though all the hype died down.
A few months after the trips to Washington D.C. Mary’s son Scott, felt it was best to put her in an assisted living home. Mary, wasn’t eating at home very well, she was losing weight and he thought this would be for the best. Two days after she went to the home, she suffered a massive stroke. She was unable to speak or move. The doctor’s told me there was no brain movement. Let me just say, doctors don’t always have the answer. For two weeks I lived at the hospital with Mary. I would read to her everyday. She loved to read. When I was unable to be there, I would have other people read to her. She would never respond to other voices until I would walk in the room. She always made an eye to eye connection with me. She would even squeeze my hand when I would ask her questions. Again, the doctor would respond “she is brain-dead, the body sometimes will make movements to make you think differently but she is brain-dead.”
I never believed him. One evening, I knew Mary was tired and ready to go home to be with the Lord. I grabbed her hand and we looked at each other in the eyes. I said ” Mary, it’s alright if you need to go home now. You have put up a good fight. I will see you again. I love you.” I sat by her bed and prayed, as I looked at her she had a tear running down her face. I knew it wouldn’t be long now as by now her lungs were full of fluid.
Steve Paulsell, a veteran himself and the Flight Director of CMHF contacted me that evening. We arranged for the patriot guards to be with Mary until she passed. No soldier should ever die alone. We wanted to make sure someone was there when she passed. Mary, died that next evening. When she went home to be with the Lord. Her family, gave me her Wings and her Bible. I have had pleasure and honor reading all of her comments that she has noted in her bible. Which lead us to the most current. I know, long story. But it was really important you know the whole story. I couldn’t begin telling it without telling you about my dear precious friend Mary.
On July 3, 2012 I took my second flight with the Central Missouri Honor Flight. This time I was an Official Guardian. Shirt, name tag and I wore Mary’s Wings. I was guardian for two women. One who had served in the Marines and the other who had served in the Army. One at the age of 88 the other 91. Can I just say….these women looked GREAT! As guardian, it’s our job to serve those veterans with their every want and need all day long. It is our job to serve and protect them.
This is the run down of the schedule, just so you can get the feel of what a long day is like for the veterans and guardians.
- Monday 11:00 pm ~ Guardians report for duty. Last minute briefings, last minute changes made. Begin loading buses with medical supplies and snack, water, etc. (keep in mind most of the people last slept Sunday evening.)
- 12:00 am ~Veterans check in. Breakfast is served.
- 1:30 am ~ Load buses
- 1:45 am ~ Two hour drive to airport. Police escort once the bus arrives close to the airport
- 4:20 am ~ Unload bus. Enter airport. Check 64 veterans and 44 guardians through security. TSA at Lambert Airport are not very forgiving people but I will save that for another time.
- 5:15 am ~ Veterans begin boarding the plane.
- 5:40 am ~ Take off. Two hour flight time, along with a one hour time difference from midwest to east coast time.
- 8:40 am ~ Land in Baltimore, Maryland. Now our adventure begins.
When our veterans come thru that jet way, there are hundreds of people there cheering, welcoming them and thanking them for their service. On this trip, the Navy was waiting for us! This is also a very emotional time for most of our veterans. Yes, me too! I broke out the Kleenex before we landed. When I say hundreds, I mean hundreds of people line the airport. When we walk out of the airport our chartered buses are ready and waiting for us with lunch: Arby’s sandwich, chips, fresh fruit, and water. Did I say Police escort? Yep, All thru Washington D.C., we have police escort. We part the sea’s when we are traveling down the highway. We head to our Nations Capital and then the White House. We continue down Pennsylvania Ave. seeing all the sights. I have fun watching some of our veterans. For some, this is their very first plane trip or trip to Washington D.C.
As we make our way thru the streets of Washington, our first stop is the WWII monument. We unload the buses and begin our tour. If you have never been. Please go! I have to say, it is a beautiful site. The water fountains, the stone carvings, the brass stars for those who didn’t make it home. Here we gather all the veterans together for a group picture. Yes, another tear jerker!
We then move to the Lincoln memorial, Washington monument, Vietnam wall, Korean wall. I would just like to add. At these memorials, all kinds of emotions come out. I am not one who likes showing my emotion in public. Nor do some of these veterans. Sometimes this has been bottled up for more than 60 years for some. It’s our job to console them and hold their hand. I never tell a veteran “it will be alright or I know how you fee.: Instead I tell them “I will pray for you.” Yep, I cry with them too! Are you seeing a pattern here?
Next it’s off to Arlington Cemetery. Do you know there are 25 to 30 soldier’s put to rest a day in Arlington? On this day, we would witness a soldier being laid to rest. A horse-drawn wagon, with a casket on the back. Boots turned backwards, as a sign his days of a solider are at an end. Very sad, very solemn place, yet peaceful.
We then visit the Tomb of the Unknown Solider. AMAZING! Every seven minutes the guard changes. On this day, the guards would pay tribute to our WWII veterans. As they slowly and gracefully walk guarding the Tomb, the would tap and scuff their right foot, this their way of saying “thank you” to the WWII veterans. It was beautiful.
One of the guards would chase us down after his shift to talk to us. A young man of only 25 I would guess. He took the time to shake every hand of every veteran. He would kiss my two veterans! saying “I don’t get the chance to meet too many female WWII veterans.” I thought that was pretty special.
We are then off for a treat. The Old Soldier’s Band. That was wonderful tribute by them. They played for 30 minutes AND we were in air conditioning!!!!
From here we load back up and head to the Iwo Jima Memorial. This would be a very touching memorial. We had two veterans with us that fought in this battle. Can I say…. Tear jerker! Even as I write this, I find myself tearing up once more. Very touching! My woman Marine posed for many pictures here.
Then it was off to the Women’s Military Memorial. I could have spent an entire day here. It was amazing to watch the face of my 91-year-old veteran. She was a court reporter in the Army. As I pushed her in the wheelchair down the halls. I just found myself drawn to her face and reactions. Without trying to pry much. I asked both my veterans “why did you join the military?” Each one of them said “we did it because our country needed us.” How many of us would be willing to do that today? Be honest. I can’t say I would in the times we live in currently. Are you tired yet? We are not done yet!
We would then go past the Pentagon and make our way to the Air Force Memorial. Very special to me because of my dearest friend Mary and my dad was an Air force man. It was as if both were there with me. Walking me thru the entire monument.
Time to load the buses up again and make our way back to Baltimore, Maryland. Everything is in reverse but still the same: police escort, people greeting the veterans and shaking hands. Very nice place! We check in, go through security and eat dinner at the airport. We start boarding the plane at 10:00 p.m. due to our flight being delayed.
Once on the plane Steve does a mail call. Weeks before, the staff calls the families asking them to write letters thanking their loved ones . hey then package them nicely and pass them out. Yes, you guessed it! Another tear jerker moment !
We arrive in St. Louis, Missouri two hours later and board the buses for the last time to make the two-hour drive home to Columbia, Missouri. Forty miles out of Columbia, however is one more surprise for our veterans ~ The Central Mo. Honor Flight Motorcycle Riders. The President and Organizer of the Flight riders is Reed H., was actually on this flight with us. He escorted his father to his monument. The Riders are made up of former military men and women. He organized this from air to ground all day long! When we hit Kingdom City, Missouri, we had 956 motorcycles waiting to escort us! Yep, Tear Jerker Moment again!
We had State Highway patrols escorting us along with 956 motorcycles. The Highway was shut down for the veterans! We are talking about a MAJOR Highway I -70 . As we looked to the right we saw people standing on the outer roads waving flags and flashing flashlights. As we looked to the left, we saw the same thing!! Our buses had to slow down from 70 mph to 30 mph to let all the motorcycles pass. Empty parking lots were full of people, Church parking lots, a local corn maze in town put on a show as we went past. The veterans couldn’t believe what they were seeing and were in pure disbelief this was all for them. Some had tears streaming down their faces. I sure did! We are talking 1:30 in the morning and people are out doing this for these veterans! Praise God! Amen!
As we make our way up the exit onto 63 South Highway, we cannot let anymore motorcycles pass us. We see more police blocking all access to both highways. I find out then, our veterans our given more police protection then the President of the United States. Plus I should add….. All these police officers volunteered their time! I am taking about 30 cars or more.
At our next exit, we see it ~ This HUGE American Flag, a HUGE American Hot air balloon and bag pipes playing. But that’s not all we see, we also see a few thousand people after the motorcycles arrived. It was AMAZING! Veronica & her husband Larry (a veteran) came. They even stayed at the hotel.
It’s 2:00 am and it’s not over yet. A local DJ announces each and every veteran as they are escorted off the bus by an Honor Flight Rider. It was an amazing day and an amazing start to our Nations Birthday. It’s a memorable moment I will cherish and never forget. Not one time did I hear a veteran complain about how tired they were. They all talked about a wonderful time they had. I would like to encourage you, to get involved with your honor flight program if you have one. If not, start one. Visit nursing homes with our veterans in them. Each day 100 WWII veterans pass away.
Again, thank you to Veronica for asking me to be part of her blog. I know this is long and windy.
God Bless you all,
“It’s pretty amazing what a women can do, when she sets her mind to do it”
Capt. Mary Nirmair