SPRINGFIELD — It’s a trip many veterans only dream of, but Tuesday morning, those dreams became reality for dozens heading to D.C. for the 43rd Honor Flight.
Since 2009, the Honor Flight has taken more than 3,000 Central Illinois’ veterans to see the sights of D.C. The early bird may catch the worm, but these guys are catching the flight of a lifetime.
“I was up at 2:30 getting dressed and my wife went crazy.”
Charles Fried is one of 79 U.S. veterans heading to D.C.
“I said, I’m so anxious to get on the road. I’ve never been to the nation’s capitol and I’m really, really excited.”
The same excitement could be felt throughout the terminal at the Lincoln Capitol Airport.
“I would, in my lifetime, never be able to go to Washington, D.C. to see the sites I’m going to see today, so it’s a first time, once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
Eleven World War II veterans and nearly 70 Korean and Vietnam wars veterans will tour war memorial sites and historical landmarks.
“Just to see the smile on their face, after all this time. They don’t expect what’s about to happen.”
Craig Law is a veteran and he’s been volunteering in the program since he first took his grandfather.
“I think it was almost life-changing for him. It opened him up. We got to see a bunch of stuff that he never saw before and he got the welcome back he never got before.”
Many of the men who served in Vietnam say a trip like this feels surreal. It was hard to come home from an unpopular war.
“When we served, the military wasn’t very respected and almost dishonored.”
But today, those feelings are long gone. These war heroes have been waiting years for this opportunity.
“They’ve changed everything for the people, giving themselves all those years of service and now, they got to go out and they get to see the memorial they are a part of.”
The Honor Flights return about 10 pm Tuesday. Volunteers suggest those in the area come by to greet and celebrate the vets’ homecoming. Any vet interested in attending a future Honor Flight just needs to apply.
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