May 20, 2013
Tallahassee, FL - 79 World War II Veterans met early on the morning of Saturday, May 11th in Tallahassee to take the trip of a lifetime.
“When they started building it, I told my wife I wanted to see it before I die," said World War II Veteran John Word. "This really is the first opportunity I’ve had.”
It marked the first Honor Flight Tallahassee ,when World War II vets from the Big Bend area were able to fly to Washington D.C. for free to see the National Memorial erected in their honor.
“It’s been a long project," says Dr. Michael Forsthelfel. He accompanied the vets and acted as the physician for the vets on board. "It's been a couple of years in the making… and it’s come to fruition with our first flight from Tallahassee.”
Other vets and volunteers lined the airplane hangar to greet and salute their elder counter parts as they walked or were wheeled on board the chartered plane.
It took around two hours to get to Baltimore, and vets were welcomed at the airport gate by strangers who gathered to greet them. They were greeted like rock stars walking through the airport lobby. "Thank you for your service," and "you're a true hero" were heard several times. Even a band was on hand to provide a welcome.
As for the World War II Memorial, it was a site to behold.
“It means so much," said Word. "To give back. We appreciate that the world… the world and the Americans appreciate what we did.”
It opened in 2004, and consists of 56 granite pillars which sit in a semi-circle, a ‘freedom wall’, two beautiful arches, and engravings depicting the American war experience.
Two special guests were also on hand, Senators Bob and Elizabeth Dole. Bob helped raise more than 100-million dollars to make the memorial a reality.
“To see them for the first time see this gorgeous monument is really moving to me," said Mrs. Dole. “Bob and I try to be here every Saturday just to have an opportunity to thank people for what they've done for this country, and to have an opportunity to share stories."
Part 2 of Honor Flight Tallahassee airs Tuesday, May 21st. Make sure you watch WCTV at six p.m. to see the story!