A hero’s welcome.
It’s what most of these men and women have never experienced, until now.
The Central and Southwest Virginia Honor Flight group taking 14 veterans to Washington, D.C. to see
the memorials built in their honor; for some, for the very first time.
“It’s been absolutely awesome, I wouldn’t have missed the trip for anything,” said Vietnam Veteran, Christine Irvin.
The trip starting in Bedford at the National D-Day Memorial, soon on the bus for Charlottesville.
At dinner they were part of a powerful tribute to Prisoners of War and soldiers Missing in Action.
Then a warm welcome at the hotel, even including Miss Elite Virginia.
The next morning starting bright and early, with just enough time for a group photo, then on with the tour.
The first stop is at the Women’s Memorial, in the shadow of Arlington National Cemetery.
Especially moving for Christine Irvin who had never visited the memorial despite being a charter member.
“They did a beautiful job doing it. And I thought gee, I’m so proud to be a member of this it really touched me. I enjoyed that,” said Irvin.
Next stop, The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier with the group witnessing the renowned Changing of the Guard Ceremony.
At the Marine Corps Memorial, the group’s Marines were treated almost like celebrities.
“It was great, I’m proud to be a Marine and still am a Marine,” said World War II Veteran Carlos Showalter.
The Air Force Veterans got to see their memorial too, including a veteran experiencing the trip as a guardian for the first time and a father-son duo.
“So the Air Force Memorial was outstanding, I’ve never seen anything like it and I can’t believe the height of those spirals,” said Vietnam Veteran Ted Nagel.
The Navy men had a chance to visit their monument, including the Lone Sailor statue.
The trip’s four World War II vets getting a chance to meet former Senator Bob Dole before heading to view the tribute to their service.
“And he reached over and he says something – you’re my hero Jack. And I said I wonder where he got that, but he was looking at my plaque. So I didn’t get to talk too much but he did squeeze my arm and I put my arm around him and I enjoyed talking to him. Course I couldn’t talk to him too long because there was a long line behind me,” said World War II Veteran Jack Cassell.
The last stops of the day were the Korean and Vietnam Memorials. Where there were powerful moments for veterans who served in both conflicts.
“I was in Korea for three years and I kinda broke down when I saw the Korean exhibition and took a lot of pictures of that,” said Korean Veteran Don Smith.
“I gotta go back to the wall. ‘Tell me about that.’ I well… I didn’t have any friends or relatives that died there but it was a lotta good people that died,” said Vietnam Veteran Jeff Banik.
Each memorial, tribute, and monument holding a special significance for the heroes they’re meant to honor.
The ride home was joined by around 100 members of a veterans motorcycle group before a return celebration back in Bedford.