WASHINGTON, D.C. (KFDA) - On the first day of the Texas Panhandle Honor Flight, veterans were received with a warm welcome.
Four World War II, four Gulf War, 12 Korean War and 63 Vietnam War veterans from the Texas Panhandle were greeted with respect to start the trip.
“I am excited,” said Vietnam Veteran Rick Wrestley. “I can’t wait to get going here, to get on the bus and get traveling down to Washington, get to see the sights.”
Local veterans explored the World War II Memorial first, beginning with a wreath laying ceremony.
The scene brought back memories for many.
“I was just a senior in high school, and I thought they might draft me, so I volunteered for the Navy,” said WWII Navy Veteran Claxton Dale Butler. “And they sent me to the Pacific, all over the Pacific. About the only thing I can brag about is that I was at Tokyo Bay when they signed the peace treaty, and that’s a day I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”
“It’s the highest honor of my life,” said WWII Army Veteran Travis Laduke. “I’ve always been a veteran, and I love the Lord, and I love our nation, and I’m grateful that God let me be here.”
Another wreath was laid at the Korean War Memorial, where some saw some faces all too familiar.
“Whenever they played Taps, that really brings back the memories of buddies that didn’t make it,” said WWII and Korean War Veteran Charley Hargrave. “And I just have a tear and a prayer for them.”
A final wreath was presented at the Vietnam Memorial, where many veterans took time to reflect.
“It’s just awesome. It’s amazing, all the memories that are here, that are memorialized, and I am pleased after 80 years of my life that I can come and see our nation’s capitol, and it’s just so rich with history. It’s rich in heritage. I love it all,” said Vietnam War Veteran Edwin “Ed” Schroeter.
Some even spent time etching the names of loved ones or friends as a keepsake.
“He was my uncle’s stepson, but we grew up together pretty good,” said Vietnam War Veteran Alex Martinez. “I’m glad I got to make this trip.”
All spent the day proud to be a veteran, and moreover, an American.