The scrapbook sits in Miljan Akin’s home, a source of memories and inspiration for the 84-year-old.
Inside the scrapbook rests a collection of letters from family members, friends and complete strangers thanking Akin for her service in the Air Force during the Korean War. She takes a few letters out from a bursting envelope inside the book every now and again to read them and remember the moment she first received them.
“Oh, that almost made me cry,” Akin said. “All the letters from my friends, some of my relatives and the school kids had letters with drawings that they had done at school, it was just unbelievable.”
Akin received the letters during Mail Call as part of her day of recognition from Honor Flight Chicago. Akin flew to Washington, D.C., with approximately 100 other veterans — including her husband, Frank Akin — on Sept. 7, 2016, and she still remembers just about every moment from the day. From the 4 a.m. arrival at Chicago’s Midway Airport to the tears that flowed down her cheeks as a band welcomed her and her other veterans to Dulles Airport. She definitely remembers the little children who shook her hand at the welcome home celebration back at Midway.
“I relive that day very often,” Akin said. “It was just a perfect day.”
The experience not only gave Akin a chance to see the memorials built in her honor and meet fellow veterans, but it helped introduce her story to loved ones and strangers who knew little about her service history.
“For years, a lot of people I know didn’t even know I had been in the service,” Akin said. “I had never talked about it.”
That includes her own children, who didn’t know much about their mother’s time in the armed forces. For many people in her life, seeing Akin’s pictures and hearing her talk about her day of honor with Honor Flight Chicago was the first time they heard about her service.
Some were surprised. All were proud.
Akin says she continues to relive the trip over and over in her mind. She takes great pride in her service as she looks back on every photo and letter from her special day, as she keeps each moment fresh in her mind.