WASHINGTON, D.C.– News 4 has introduced you to some brave veterans who received the trip of a lifetime with the Buffalo Niagara Honor Flight. This family received quite a surprise during their journey.
Jim and David Miller are brothers who served in the Army — Jim in Korea, David in Vietnam. John Backstrom is married to Jim’s daughter. He also served our country in the Airforce during the Vietnam War. The trio boarded Honor Flight with a purpose.
They were asked to lay a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery.
“I can remember as a kid, mom and dad took us to Washington a couple of times, and we watched that procedure,” said John Backstrom. “Little did I realize I would be part of that.”
It was quite an honor for a family with such patriotic roots.
“What can I say? I’m crying right now,” said Grace Backstrom. “When I received the call asking if the gentlemen would maybe do that, I stood there and cried.”
Though the family is close-knit, things haven’t been easy for them. Three years ago, Jim lost his best friend, companion, and soulmate — his wife. His children say he has struggled greatly with this loss.
“When he gets down and thinks life is too much for him, we just say, ‘we need you here still,” said Jim’s daughter Gayle.
With the COVID-19 pandemic delaying almost everything, his daughters feared he might not get to go on the trip.
“When you’re in your 90’s, every day is a gift. And you just don’t know…” said Kerman. “COVID-19 stopped him from going, so we thought, ‘we hope he’s still around when they get up and running again.'”
So, Grace and Gayle got to work — the family knew they needed to mark the occasion. With siblings, nieces, and extended family, they hatched a plan to surprise their veterans with an army of support. Their loved ones from around the United States came to watch them lay the wreath.
“My dad did not know we were going to be here today,” said Gayle. “And my brother, who lives in the Philadelphia area, also drove in to see.”
“Some of them were just infants, children,” said Jim. “And others were older folks. I was really hard for me to keep my tears back.”
“Some of them were just infants. Children” said, Jim. “And others were older folks. I was really hard for me to keep my tears back.”
This once-in-a-lifetime trip, and the outpouring of support during such a monumental day, gave the entire family a boost in spirit.
“To see my grandpa with his great-granddaughter, and his smile just brightens up, you can tell it kind of revives him too,” said Gabrielle Schifferle.
They all agree it’s a day they’ll never forget.
“It’s been a wonderful, remarkable experience,” said David Miller. “It’s above and beyond what I even imagined it.”