LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - More than 80 veterans are back on the South Plains after spending three days in the Washington, D.C. area on the Texas South Plains Honor Flight. The trip has provided them an opportunity to see how the United States pays tribute to them, the wars they fought and the men and women they fought next to who didn’t make it home.
The first stop on the final day was at Quantico National Cemetery where staff gave our veterans a tour and brought them to Section 22 where veterans from the Missing in America Project are laid to rest.
The South Plains veterans placed flags at graves and participated in a ceremony to honor the heroes gone before them.
Next, the Honor Flight drove to the National Museum of the Marine Corps. That’s where our Marine veterans placed a wreath at the statue of Iron Mike.
“This place is a monument to us and the most fantastic experience you can have as a Marine,” Dick Baker said wearing his Marine jacket and cap.
Baker served in Vietnam and shared with KCBD the story behind a bracelet he wears with the name of a friend he served with.
“I got to visit the [Vietnam Memorial] wall yesterday,” Baker said pointing to his bracelet. “Brian Weber was killed during Tet Offensive. My oldest son is named after him.”
Baker showed KCBD a photo he took at the Vietnam Memorial. It showed him holding his bracelet next to the name of Weber, which is etched in the granite.
“West 37 line 71 is where he is immortalized on that wall,” Baker said.
After time to tour the museum, the three buses full of veterans, guardians and staff traveled to the Washington Navy Yard and the National Museum of the United States Navy.
That’s where our veterans enjoyed lunch and time to tour the museum. It was also the location of the final wreath laying ceremony.
Vietnam veteran Royce Williams was one of the Sailors who marched with the wreath to its spot between an American and Navy flag inside the museum. He became emotional explaining why he was proud to be on the trip.
“To come see where we came from and how we got to the Navy of today,” Williams said. “It just keeps going. It gets better and better.”
Many of the veterans we spoke to throughout the Honor Flight shared with us memories and stories of their time in the service. But, they also shared the appreciation they have for those who made the trip possible and the opportunity it gave them to reflect on how they served and who they served with.
“It’s just the whole thing, the atmosphere, knowing what they went through,” Korea War veteran Tommy Largent said explaining why the visit to the war memorial is emotional.
Largent walked through the Korean War Memorial with Neal Burnett. The two men never knew each other before the trip. However, both served in the Air Force during that conflict. This trip brought them together through Burnett’s son who served as a guardian for both men.
“You really, deeply appreciate people doing this, really and truly,” Burnett said of the Honor Flight. “It’s something you go through but you appreciate more your fellow man and country for what it’s really all about.”
Paul Corcorran was one of the guardians on the Honor Flight. He said he applied for the trip as a way to serve those who served for us.
“It’s hard to understand the humbling experience I’ve had on this trip,” Corcorran said. “These guys have put so much into their lives and fought for everything that we’ve got today. This is just a way to give back to them."
Our buses arrived at Baltimore-Washington Thurgood Marshall International Airport Tuesday afternoon for the trip home. Applause would break out as the veterans made their way to the plane.
During an unexpected diversion and plane change at Dallas Love Field Airport, travelers did the same.
As the veterans stood in line to board the plane, strangers stopped by to shake hands and show their appreciation.
Then, at home in Lubbock friends, family, honor guards and supporters lined the Lubbock Preston Smith International Airport to give the Honor Flight a proper welcome.
Flags waived and loved ones held signs as the veterans marched through to the baggage claim.
“It’s a lot different than when we came home the first time,” Vietnam veteran Thomas Seiler said after greeting his grandchildren. “This is pretty neat. I’m kind of emotional.”
Then, the 2019 Texas South Plains Honor Flight was dismissed.
KCBD NewsChannel 11 thanks all veterans who have served our country and the Texas South Plains Honor Flight for the opportunity to document this journey.
To see KCBD’s Day 1 coverage, click here.
For KCBD’s Day 2 coverage, click here.
To donate to the Honor Flight, click here.
For access to the download the 2019 trip photos, click here.