WASHINGTON (WDTN) — Veterans from the Dayton area had the chance to tour Washington, D.C., and its war memorials on Saturday, Oct. 15.
Traveling with Honor Flight Dayton, 102 veterans and around 80 guardians flew to the nation’s capital on Oct. 15. Many of which had never had to chance to go before.
While exiting the plane at Ronald Reagon Washington National Airport, the veterans were met by a roar of applause from strangers and active duty military.
Vietnam veteran Garry Haun said, “When we walked into the airport at Washington, tears came to everybody’s eyes.”
For the veterans, the thanks and appreciation were one of the most memorable aspects of the trip.
Cold War veteran Bill Drake said, “My favorite part of today has been the number of people that have commented to us. I wish that was what happened around the world.”
The first stop of the day, Arlington National Cemetery, allowed veterans to honor those who are not around anymore to be thanked.
Along with the serious, somber tone of Arlington National Cemetery, the stop proved to be one of the most interesting memorials of the day.
The ceremony featured the Old Guard’s only woman currently serving. As the clock struck 1000 hours, 23-year-old Army Sergeant Kamille Torres Zapata emerged onto the plaza and announced the beginning of the ceremony.
“Seeing a woman out there, that was great,” said Vietnam veteran Mary Bishop, one of two women veterans on the trip.
Cold War veteran Nancy Carter said she was pleased to see a woman in such a prestigious role, “It’s good because we’ve had to work really hard to get women where they are.”
“That was impressive. Especially with the young lady,” said Vietnam veteran Bill Pollard. “There’s only been six of them ever. And we got to see it.”
Feelings of awe and respect followed the veterans around for the whole day, but perhaps for two veterans, those feelings were amplified.
Two World War II veterans were present on Saturday’s trip: 96-year-old Tom Kremer and 100-year-old Charlie Sanders.
At the World War II Memorial, Kremer and Sanders as well as the other 100 veterans were met with applause from youth cadets from the Civil Air Patrol and civilian strangers who happened to join in.
Gathered under the Ohio column, Kremer and Sanders sat taking pictures with fellow veterans, active-duty military and passing strangers.
“What’s my favorite place we’ve been today? World War II,” said Kremer.
The mood changed to somber when the group arrived at the Vietnam Memorial.
Veterans scoured the wall, searching for names of lost buddies from the war. One veteran, searched for up to three names, finding all of them with the help of his grandson.
Veterans weren’t the only ones struck by the memorial, though. One guardian was also looking for someone important to her.
“He was one of the first people in uniform I ever saw, when I was maybe 6. And I was just so impressed,” said Theresa Cornett, while looking for the name of a friend of her dad. ”A bomb hit the mess hall and it killed a bunch of them, and he was one of them.”
All 102 veterans continued to be thanked and acknowledged everywhere they went.
Cold War veteran Dan Wolfe shared that while touring the war memorials, a stranger approached him, “I had a woman come up to me and put her arm on me. She’s crying, thanking me because her kids can go to school here in the United States.”
And just when the veterans thought their day was over, they were surprised by over 1,200 people in the lobby of Dayton International Airport.
Families reunited, strangers celebrated and some veterans even cried. There was music and friends held up signs.
When everyone had settled into the lobby, the entire crowd joined in the singing of the National Anthem.
The veterans were finally properly welcomed home and celebrated.
“So many people behind the scenes to make this happen for us vets. That’s really important. It was so well organized,” Vietnam veteran Mary Bishop said.
Each and every veteran praised the work of Honor Flight Dayton for making it such a memorable day.
Cold War veteran Bill Drake said, “I really enjoyed it, everything.”