WTL Airport Support Awards: USO and TSA
The Archdiocese for the Military Services (AMS), USA, and the Knights of Columbus cosponsored Warriors to Lourdes (WTL) pilgrimage was held 17 May - 23 May 2016, at the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes, Lourdes, France in conjunction with the 58th Annual International Military Pilgrimage (PMI), 20-22 May, which included delegations from 45 countries. The PMI was started in 1958 when the French Armed Forces invited the German military to join them in Lourdes as a gesture of reconciliation after World War II.
This year, the annual AMS-KofC WTL pilgrimage supported more than 170 wounded, ill, or injured Warriors and veterans, designated caregivers, family members, chaplains, and volunteer. In addition to Catholics, the WTL Pilgrimage included pilgrims and chaplains from several Christian denominations. The PMI theme for 2016 was “The Door to God's Mercy is Always Open.” While at Lourdes, the AMS pilgrims attended the PMI events, as well as engaged in a number of other religious and spiritual activities, including Masses, the Stations of the Cross and times of reflection. Additionally, many Pilgrims bathed in the famous waters of Lourdes, which annually draw millions of the faithful, many of whom seek spiritual, physical or emotional healing. This year pilgrims had the opportunity to enter the Sanctuary through a Holy Door in support of the Jubilee of Mercy.
The WTL pilgrimage is an in-depth logistics operation requiring coordination across several time zones and vast distances. Annually, the United Service Organization (USO) and Transportation Security Administration (TSA) at each departure airport work closely with the KofC airport hospitality teams to facilitate movement through complex security scenarios and provide a place for rest, relaxation and camaraderie. This support was replicated at locations across the country: Seattle–Tacoma International Airport, Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport, Charlotte Douglas International Airport, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, New York-John F. Kennedy International Airport, San Diego International Airport (Lindbergh Field), and Washington Dulles International Airport.
This year SK Col Charles Gallina, USMC/Ret., the Principal WTL Pilgrimage Coordinator, wanted to show their gratitude to the USO and TSA support teams. The USO and TSA had proven superb partners over the last three years. On 6 July 2016, plaques were delivered to each airport USO representative by each Knights of Columbus hospitality team lead. SK Col Gallina personally gave the plaques at an awards ceremony at Washington Dulles International Airport. SK Gallina was supported by SK Ed Mays, USMC/Ret., Faithful Navigator of James Cardinal Hickey Assembly 2534, Washington DC, and the WTL Airport and USO Coordinator; SK Otto Heck, State Advocate, Washington DC; and SK Jerry Driscoll, USMC/Ret. the Deputy Principal WTL Pilgrimage Coordinator and District Deputy, Washington DC.
All the USO and TSA personnel present were thrilled to have aided in the spiritual, physical and emotional healing of a Warrior or veterans. Andrea Tassan, Dulles USO Center Supervisor and Special Agent Doug May, TSA were on-hand to receive the plaques on behalf of their respective organizations and to thank the Knights of Columbus.
All the knights present knew these volunteers from the United States and TSA personnel had lived the principles of charity, unity, fraternity and patriotism! Preceding the pilgrimage, Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio, head of the Archdiocese of the Military Services, USA, said, “The pilgrims will journey and pray with others from around the world. It will be a wonderful occasion to raise their hearts and minds to the Prince of Peace and beg for an increase in understanding and a decrease in strife.” In our turbulent times, we need an increase for understand, now more than ever!