Mid-Michigan veterans take honor flight to nation's capital - WNEM TV 5

Mid-Michigan veterans take honor flight to nation's capital

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(Source: WNEM) (Source: WNEM)

A patriotic crowd lined the halls of the airport in Traverse City with red, white and blue.

"We're letting them know that they are not forgotten," said John Lefler.

Young and old held the American flag to send off the heroes as they embarked on one final mission that was 70 years in the making.

"They really don't realize how important they are and were in our lives in the United States," Lefler said.

Nothing could prepare the 61 veterans, most of whom served during World War II, for the trip they were about to make.

Paul Pipoly, a sailor who spent time in the pacific, loaded on to the Mid-Michigan honor flight with his fellow comrades. It was a free trip for the service members to see Washington, D.C. and the monuments built to honor their service.

They landed in Washington to a heroes welcome.

For many, it was their first visit to the nation's capital. It was a visit that took them back in time to the event that changed all of their lives.

"To see it in person, it's amazing. It's like the Grand Canyon, you've seen pictures of it, but until you've actually seen it, what a change. What a change. Wonderful," said Robert Carter, WWII veteran.

This was the first time the Air Force veteran saw the monument with his own two eyes. He’s 89.

"I can't explain it. It just brings back a lot of memories of 70-some years ago, but you know, they're a little fuzzy, but they're there," Carter said.

Mildred Bradke is a retired Marine from Midland. She is 92-years-old. Women weren’t allowed in combat back then, but she served on the home front.

"Isn't this wonderful? This is the first time I've been to Washington, D.C, I'm overwhelmed with what I see," she said. "Look at these men, they've lived for years, but look they gave up the best part of their lives for the country. And that makes me feel so patriotic."

The group visited the WWII monument, the Iwo Jima monument, the Korean and Vietnam memorials and Arlington National Cemetery, where many choked up with emotion.

"Makes you think how much was sacrificed for this country," Pipoly said.

A member of the Mid-Michigan honor flight laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns. Air Force Colonial Donald Kirkpatrick served in WWII, the Korean War and Vietnam.

"To be able to take the wreathe up and put it on the unknown soldier, very few people have that honor," he said. "To be with the people you know who have done the same things you have and saved the country."

They spent six hours at the capital before their flight home. They arrived back to a welcome home party from the same people who sent them off.

"If you have the chance, take it because you'll never forget it. It's something that happens once in a lifetime, so take it and enjoy it, just enjoy it, it's wonderful," Carter said.

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