WWII vets take Honor Flight, visit D.C.

CASCADE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Veterans from World War II embarked on a remarkable journey Tuesday as the Mid-Michigan Honor Flight took its inaugural trip to Washington, D.C.

The trip was arranged so those who served in one of the fiercest conflicts in history can see some of the memorials erected in their honor at our nation’s capitol.

>>Photos: Mid-Michigan Honor Flight

The more than 170 veterans and guardians were on Tuesday’s charter flight from Gerald R. Ford International Airport to Washington, where they were greeted by an impressive group of well-wishers.

Private motor coaches took them to the National Mall, where they saw the Vietnam and Korean memorials and the World War II Memorial.

They also visited the Marine Corps War Memorial — also referred to as the Iwo Jima Memorial — and Arlington National Cemetery, where they were guests of honor at a wreath-laying and changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

After spending the day in Washington, the group boarded the Honor Flight and headed back to Michigan. There were welcomed back to Grand Rapids by a crowd at the airport.

A crowd at Gerald R. Ford International Airport welcomes home WWII veterans who went on the Honor Flight to Washington, D.C. (June 24, 2014)
(A crowd at Ford Airport welcomes home WWII veterans who went on the Honor Flight. June 24, 2014)

“I couldn’t believe the young people at the airport, the young kids and the families. It’s just overwhelming, you know,” veteran Martin Schuiling said. “This is unbelievable. I didn’t expect my kids to be here, but they’re here.”

A short ceremony was then held at the Amway hangar, where a vintage war plane was brought in especially for the event.

Some 70-plus years after they were called to duty, the trip was arduous for some. The logistics for those who planned the undertaking were complex, no doubt sometimes daunting.

But neither the rigor of the day nor the logistics involved even mildly compare to what these veterans were asked to do after U.S. military facilities at Pearl Harbor was attacked on Dec. 7, 1941.

The lodging the night before the flight, transportation, meals and all of the ceremonies planned both in Washington and when the veterans return were all paid for by donors who want to thank to a generation that changed the fate of our nation and the globe.

24 Hour News 8 was honored to travel with the veterans and hear their stories and their memories.

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