Sixteen million soldiers served the United States during World War II. Fourteen million have already passed away, but a program here in Oklahoma honors those left.
"Pretty much excited, been a lot going on since three o'clock this morning," said Lloyd Simpson, an Oklahoma veteran.
Greeted by Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb, 81 veterans boarded a plane and took off from Will Rogers World Airport on Wednesday, Oct. 21 for the last large chartered Oklahoma Honor Flight. Their destination: Washington D.C.
This is the 22nd chartered flight since May 2010, serving 2,009 Oklahoma veterans.
State Rep. Gary Banz co-founded Oklahoma Honor Flights, with a passion to fly veterans to the nation's capital to see the war memorials they represent.
"It's become a ministry opportunity," Banz said. "First and foremost, every time we make a flight, it's a constant reminder of the heritage that I have personally with my own father and the four uncles that served in the Navy and the South Pacific."
On this day, the veterans spent a day full of remembrance, receiving a hero's welcome, something the World War II veterans aren't used to receiving.
"You can't imagine how great a feeling it is," said Les Boyle, one of the veterans on trip.
Boyle said the feeling at the memorial is quite different from how he remembers his time in the service.
"They're not great memories, it was a nasty place, very cold," he remembers. "It's been a long time, so mercifully I don't remember a lot of detail. I just remember it was nasty all the time."
"Yeah, this is quite a place," remarked Aden Barrett, Jr., while a volunteer pushed him in a wheelchair through the memorial.
"I'm really glad we can bring them up here because there are not many of them left out there," said C.R. Head, Barrett's volunteer for the day.
The 90-year-old Barrett said his last military stop was in Okinawa. He said he saw a lot of bad stuff.
"I was glad to come home, though, I had about 14 months over there," he said.
Ray Riley, at 100 years old, is the oldest one on this trip. He said he was stationed in England, flying missions over Europe. When asked, he said he never dreamed he would have seen the WWII Memorial.
"This? No, no, I didn't," he said. "But here I am."
He made it, and with his comrades in arms, they remember, not only their time at war, but their time now, at peace, honored for their service to our country.
"What they did has really changed the course of human history and we don't have much time to make sure that the next generation fully understands that story and embraces it as their own," Banz said.
While this was the last large chartered flight, several smaller ones are scheduled commercially through next year, but they need donations. Click here to volunteer or help fund a veteran on a flight.