MILWAUKEE — Being a military veteran means you sacrificed your life for the greater good of our country.
Stars and Stripes Honor Flights recognize that sacrifice and honor veterans with a life-changing trip to Washington, D.C.
Mission #64 included one World War II vet, 13 Korean War vets, and 144 veterans of the Vietnam War. I had the pleasure of escorting Marine and Vietnam vet Mynelious Magee.
This day of emotion started before the sun came up. Vets arrived at Mitchell International Airport with smiles on their faces.
They landed a few hours later at Washington's Dulles Airport to a room filled with smiles and cheers. 95-year-old Jerry Starz made the trip. He is an Air Force and World War II veteran.
"It's been fantastic, it's the people at the airport and the young kids...it's fantastic," said Starz.
They visited the Lincoln Memorial and the Vietnam War Memorial where there are almost 60,000 names of soldiers that were killed or went missing in action.
The Korean War Memorial commemorates the sacrifices of the 5.8 million Americans who served during the three-year war.
And then there was the World War II Memorial which consists of 56 pillars representing U.S. states and territories.
Navy Vet Malcolm Soward-Gatford said the day was very moving for him.
"I've seen a lot, I've been here before, but this just means something a heck of a lot more than just coming on your own," said Soward-Gatford.
Perhaps the most moving was the visit to Arlington National Cemetery, the final resting place for over 400,000 service members and their families, including the most decorated soldier of World War II, the late actor Audie Murphy. As the day moved along, it was hard not to build special bonds, even I made a few new friends!
Army vet Michael Phillip Raymond told us what the day meant to him.
"Everything. The people are so nice, it's just what it's supposed to be...a veteran gets respect," said Raymond.
The veterans headed back with a special mail call and then landed to a welcome home they'll never forget.