Intro: On a Sunday afternoon, 75 veterans and their families are gathered in a conference room. These veterans are members of Central Missouri Honor Flights 46th Flight. A little over two weeks after their flight, they gathered to reflect on their journey. And, as Daniel Perreault (PER-OH) from member station K-B-I-A reports, it’s the little things that mean the most to our nations veterans.
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PERREAULT: When Honor Flight Vice President Steve Paulsell announced a large donation to Central Missouri Honor Flight, every veteran in the room stood and applauded. They knew exactly where that money is going.
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Honor Flight is a national organization that fly’s veterans to see the memorials in Washington DC for the day free of charge. For some veterans, the memorials are understandably emotional. But for others, it’s the warm receptions from ordinary people that gets to them. For Michael Keith, it was a moment after landing in Washington.
“This little girl was about four years old, maybe younger. Felt her tugging on my brises a little. I look down and, a little bitty tiny girl. And she says ‘Thank you for keeping me safe mister and then she just run over and hugged her mom. And there was a marine beside me, it brought tears to both of our eyes. I guarantee you it did.”
PERREAULT: From hundreds waving flags when they came off the airplane to the little things throughout the day. Russell Bell is also a Vietnam veteran who was on the flight.
“The entire trip was just one emotional episode after the other. And what amazed me is that everywhere we went, when we got off their bus, there would be some dignitary like a representative or an officer from one of the Military branches there to greet us. It was just pretty amazing.”
PERREAULT: The experience is also emotional for the guardians who are responsible for the individual veterans. It hits especially close to home for Steve Hahn, who himself is a veteran.
“I’ve walked in their footsteps and understand what they’re going through. Even, it’s a healing process for them but then it’s an also a healing process for me and some of the stuff that I’ve seen ah…to talk with somebody else whose been in my footsteps and for them to be vice versa.”
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PERREAULT: And as Flight 46 nears it’s close, Steve and the other Honor Flight volunteers are already looking forward to the next flight scheduled for Early July. For the 100 veterans on flight 47, their Honor Flight journey is just beginning.
For NPR News, I’m Daniel Perreault in Columbia, Missouri.