The power of words and photos

When Frank Akin arrived home from a jam-packed day visiting Washington, D.C., with Honor Flight Chicago, he was not empty-handed. The 85-year-old former Air Force Airman 1st Class returned with a packet filled with dozens of letters of gratitude for him and his service.

Akin served in the Air Force with his wife, Miljan, during the Korean War. In September of 2016, they flew with Honor Flight Chicago to visit the memorials in Washington, D.C. Waiting crowds were overjoyed to see a veteran couple being honored.

“Everybody was floored,” Frank Akin said. “They always wanted to shake our hands and take pictures of us.”

Akin spent the day reminiscing about the past with fellow veterans, while also making new memories. He got the chance to visit several war memorials and watch a rifle demonstration in the afternoon. During a ceremony at the World War II Memorial honoring all the Honor Flight Chicago veterans, Akin proudly carried a flag with the Honor Guard. After a dinner and some dancing, Akin got on the plane back to Chicago.

He was in for another memory-making moment: Mail Call.

Envelopes were passed around the airplane, one for each veteran onboard. Akin opened his and found a pile of letters from family and friends who wrote their appreciation and thanks for his service and dedication.

The Akins excitedly met their son and daughter in the cheering crowd at Midway Airport. They were ready to go home, but the memories from the day weren’t over. Weeks later, the couple received a photo album in the mail, sent by Miljan’s Guardian, as well as many other pictures from the flight. Akin still showcases photographic evidence of the day whenever he can.

“We got all kinds of pictures,” Akin said. “I took them to show the father at church. I took them when I went to see my doctor. He saw all the pictures.”

The photos are precious to Akin, as are the Mail Call letters he received. The pictures, though, are all that’s left in his possession. He decided the letters would be more impactful in someone else’s hands.

“I gave all of mine to my daughter,” Akin said. “That’ll be something she can remember me by when I’m gone.”