Utah's first Honor Flight gave the state's WWII veterans a chance to memorials in Washington D.C. they've heard about, but never had the chance to see.
It's Molly Marine for the only female vet on board. “It was really an experience for me to be in the Marine Corps,” said Marty Martin, a WWII veteran from Fruit Heights. Pointing to the female Marine statute she said, “I used to be skinny like that too.”
They roamed museums showcasing their fight, such as the Udvar-Hazy National Air & Space Museum, Marine Corps Museum and the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum. The group of veterans even raised the flag at Fort McHenry.
Everywhere they went they got the star-studded treatment. From a senator's handshake, “There's a reason we call you the greatest generation, because you are,” Sen. Mike Lee, R-UT told them.
A group of students greeted them with handshakes and tears at the Arlington National Cemetery. Firefighters at Salt Lake International and Dulles airports showed their gratitude by showering their planes with a water cannon salute. Utahns back home said thanks the old fashion way, sending the vets letters just like they'd get in the Pacific.
They are Utah's first veterans to experience this kind of adventure, made possible by the passion and dedication of one man.
“Lt. Dan” as he's affectionately called, brought the Honor Flight to Utah and he's on a mission to send more veterans to see the D.C. memorials free of charge.
“There are 9,000 WWII veterans and 600 dying a day,” said Dan Curtis, Honor Flight organizer. “That's 30-40 funerals a day in Utah, it needs to be done.”
The trip brought the war heroes to a place of closure. The highlight, the World War II Memorials that's marked with gold stars, one for every 100 of their fellow soldiers who never came home.
“I was a blue star, but others weren't so fortunate,” said George Ziegler, a veteran from St. George.
To these veterans those lost are the real stars and remembering them is the reason they came.
To learn more about the Honor Flight or to donate, click here.