WWII Vets See Their Memorial for the First Time

By John Schriffen
|  Thursday, Sep 23, 2010  |  Updated 6:57 AM EDT
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A group of World War II veterans visited the World War II Memorial for the first time.

John Schriffen

A group of World War II veterans visited the World War II Memorial for the first time.

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As veterans from all over the country stepped off their planes at Dulles International Airport, they were greeted with a hero's welcome. Every week for the past five years, volunteers with the Honor Flight Network have brought veterans to D.C. to see the World War II Memorial.

“I think it’s magnificent,” said veteran Claud Wheatly. “I thought people had forgotten World War II.”
 
“It makes you want to cry,” said veteran Elbert Davis.
 
After the bus ride from the airport, they captured the moment with a group photo. Then it was time to see the nation’s tribute to them.
 
“To come here and see what it represents, it’s beautiful,” said veteran Edward Tonkin. “It’s freedom and that’s what it was all about.”
 
This one-day experience is completely free of charge for these veterans -- paid for by private donations. Each honor trip costs in total about $60,000, but for these veterans to be there reliving their youth it's priceless.
 
Still, the emotions for some were too much to handle. There were many thoughts about friends not here today.
 
“They missed a lifetime,” said veteran George Balog. “They died when they were 18- and 19- and 20-year-old kids. That’s what we were.”
 
As the day wrapped up, the veterans took the time to remember the men and women who are still in harm's way and had this message for them.
 
“God bless you,” said Korean War veteran Diane Degnan. “Keep you safe, and thank you for what you do.”

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