June 4, 2014 at 12:27 PM ET
A group of World War II veterans got a sweet surprise this week, when a gate agent at the Detroit airport serenaded them with a beautiful rendition of the national anthem over the loudspeaker.
The moving moment came on Monday, when the agent at DTW, Anna Marie Barile, started to sing over the PA system for passengers waiting for Delta flight 98 from Detroit to Paris.
The tribute, which the airline told TODAY.com was part of a larger send-off ceremony for a group of WWII veterans, came about at the urging of Barile's fellow employees, who encouraged her to sing since many of them had heard her voice before.
There were 12 WWII veterans on this particular flight, which was headed to Paris, and at least one of them was en route to an event at Omaha Beach to recognize the 70th anniversary of D-Day. When it was announced over the PA system that he was a WWII veteran, he received a standing ovation from all the travelers.
The moment was particularly touching for traveler Alyssa Vermeulen, who was heading to Italy (via Paris) for her honeymoon. She says she had just come back to the gate from the bathroom when she noticed a large crowed was gathered.
"I was worried that something had happened, but when I asked my husband, he said that we had several WWII veterans on the plane," she told TODAY.com via email. "Shortly after, the flag appeared out of the gate and everyone stood for the national anthem."
Vermeulen captured the moment on video, which she posted to YouTube, and said the experience was a nice contrast to what typically goes on in an airport.
"It was a lovely display of patriotism in such a crazy place," she said. "Usually, airports are a high stress environment where people are rushing to connections, frantically gathering items, or anxiously waiting (for) their zone call to board, but for a few minutes everyone in the airport was standing, quiet and peaceful, showing respect to those who fought for our freedom."
And the heartwarming spirit didn't end there. "The respect continued on the plane," Vermeulen said, when "everyone stopped to thank these men for (their) service." The pilot thanked the veterans by name, she said, and informed the cabin as the plane passed over Normandy.
"One of the veterans also celebrated his 95th birthday on the plane and everyone sang to him before we deplaned," she said.
The experience struck a personal note for Vermeulen, who has several veterans in her family, including her grandfather who served as a marine in WWII.
"It truly was beautiful," she said, "and it made the long plane ride, that would usually be filled with complaints of small bathrooms and uncomfortable seats that would usually be filled with complaints of small bathrooms and uncomfortable seats take on a whole new meaning of gratitude for what we are so lucky to have."