WASHINGTON D.C. (ABC 4 Utah) – It's wheels up for Utah's first Honor Flight. Dozens of World War II veterans from across the state left for Washington D.C. Wednesday to visit the war memorials.
The trip is free of charge for the veterans courtesy of community donations.
“I'm really excited to see all those monuments I've heard so much about them, said Wayne Humphreys, WWII vet from Bountiful.
Humphreys is one of 32 veterans from Utah on the Honor Flight. He's not only seeing the memorials, but visiting D.C. for the first time. Accompanying him is his grandson, Brent Byington, an Iraq War veteran.
“I think it's a great opportunity for him,” said Byington. “A lot of people don't ever leave their hometowns, a lot of these guys I don't think saw much after they served in the war.”
Once onboard, the vets can hardly wait for wheels up.
“We're going to Washington D.C. and seeing the memorials!” said Herb Barker, a veteran from Ogden.
Time is running out for many of these aging WWII vets who are dying at an average rate of 600 a day.
“We'll never get another chance to see these things, I'm my 90th year,” said Barker.
The trip is extra special for Barker and his friend Jesse Tracy, who were station in the Philippines at the same time and now 70 years later are able to see their memorial together.
“It just seems like it's internal, we just enjoy each other,” said Tracy. “The bond is there because we've been in the service and the feeling is mutual.”
The mutual feeling is an emotional one.
“What does it mean for you to be able to see the memorials,” ABC 4 Utah's Kim Johnson asked Humphreys.
In a tearful reply, Humphreys said, “some of my friends didn't come back.”
Remembering those who've given the ultimate sacrifice is what most here have longed to do. Now they're finally getting their chance.
ABC 4 Utah's Kim Johnson is the exclusive TV reporter invited on the flight. Tune in to ABC 4 Utah Thursday for more of her reports from Washington.