75 years later, as the number of World War Two veterans still alive continues to dwindle, it is also important to make sure they get a chance to see the memorials built in their honor.
That’s exactly what happened recently when the Central and Southwest Virginia Honor Flight program took a trip to Washington, DC.
Seeing a memorial is always a humbling experience.
But visiting one with one of the veterans it was built for means so much more.
“It almost makes me cry to be pushing a WWII veteran around the memorials. People are coming in from all over and thanking him and hugging him and I told him, I said Ed, you’re a rock star. I mean it’s just a tribute to him and I said this is your memorial, you know?,” said Bill Rhodes an Honor Flight Guardian.
14 veterans, including four who served in World War Two, traveled to Washington, DC with the Central and Southwest Virginia Honor Flight program.
For them, it was a moment they will never forget.
‘It was exciting because I had never seen it before, and to see such a magnificent monument – it’s huge. And you have to see it to believe, it’s that big and impressive,” said veteran Jack Cassell.
‘I wasn’t sure what was going to happen here, I wanted to just go and see all these memorials – and they’re interesting, and there’s a lot of I think love, appreciation. Every time you go to a memorial, you think of all the guys that didn’t come back. That gave their lives for the country,” said veteran Ed Mochel.
It also serves as a reminder as to why it is so important to make sure everyone remembers the sacrifice of those who never came home.
“When you walk through the graveyard at Arlington National Cemetery, and as you ride by there and see all those crosses lined up, you think to yourself they traded all of their tomorrows for my today and your today, and your today,” said veteran Carlos Showalter.
The trip was especially touching for one guardian who was there with his grandfather.
“Growing up I saw him as a farmer and I never really saw him as a soldier, never really saw him as a veteran. I mean I know what he did for the country and everything, but I really got to experience that, got a little bit of a different perspective on my grandfather this weekend,” said Justin Burr.
A perspective that was shared by all who saw the veterans on the trip, making sure to thank them for their service. Something that truly made an impact on the entire group.
“We came in that door back here from the bus and all those people were there and I was kind of swept off my feet. I mean that was well done; I don’t know how they did it,” said veteran Bill Collier.
One unplanned moment of many, that made the trip truly life-changing for all who were there.