Donations help Honor Flight Bluegrass bring veterans to Washington, D.C. for free

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- They fought for our country, and now the Kentuckiana veterans are getting a special trip to honor them. WDRB flew to Washington, D.C. with the Honor Flight to learn their stories of courage and sacrifice.

It's an emotional journey for these Kentuckiana veterans who are seeing these memorials for the first time, and it's a trip they'll never forget.  For this trip, 66 veterans were honored everywhere they stopped

U.S. Senator from Kentucky and Senate Major Leader Mitch McConnell greeted veterans, after they walked off 3 charter buses. He thanked them for their service.

The veterans from all over Kentucky and Indiana were treated to a free Honor Flight from Louisville to Washington, D.C. A police escort guided them to the war memorials.

Norman Duval is a Caneyville, Kentucky Navy veteran who served in the Vietnam War. He says,  "I joined the Navy in 63, and served from 63 to 67."

World War II veteran Donald Lung is from Floyds, Knobs, Indiana. He started serving 3 weeks before his high school graduation. He says, "I was in the first group of people that went into the occupational force in Japan." He talks about how young he was. He says, "I never touched a gun in my life, so it was really an experience to be in that."

On this rainy day, he says being at this memorial with other veterans of the "greatest generation" is emotional.

Lung says he's one of the lucky ones. "They told us I'd be in first wave of the invasion of Japan and I probably wouldn't be able to come back, but Truman dropped a bomb and that saved my life," he said.

At Arlington National Cemetery, they watched the changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Honor Flight veterans had the honor of placing a wreath to remember those killed.

Duval says, "I feel very sad and grateful at the same time. I really respect and honor all these people who have given their lives up for us."

For some veterans being there unlocks memories that are painful. Kenneth Chapman is a Bowling Green man who served in the Vietnam War. He says, "It is tough for me."

Veterans that served in World War II, the Korean War and and the Vietnam War spent the day looking at names of all the people who never made it back home. Chapman says, "I had two friends who I went to high school all the way through, and they were over in Vietnam before they were gone. You think about that every time you walk by here and look at it."

Donations pay for veterans to go on Honor Flights.  The group needs more donations to help other veterans go on flights like this.

These veterans also visited the Air Force Memorial and Iwo Jima. Duval says, "It's been an extraordinary trip and time for me. It's something I've never witnessed like this before. It's really made my day and my life."

And for Lung and others, this day is about how far they've come.  Lung says, "The young people don't even know what it's about.  They have no clue what we went through."

The next honor flight is in September. Organizers says it'll probably be made up of veterans from the three wars.

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