WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) — It was an emotional Tuesday for the 186 people who boarded Flight 22. As we reported Tuesday, it was the final Greater Lafayette honor flight.
PHOTO GALLERY: Final Greater Lafayette Honor Flight
News 18's Kiyerra Lake and photojournalist Ryan Delaney took the trip with them. It was an emotional day in Washington D.C. for the co-founders, but also our local veterans.
Boarding the plane to the final Greater Lafayette Honor Flight was a bittersweet moment. Co-founder Pam Mow stayed upbeat for the veterans and their guardians heading to our nation's capital.
"They are so much fun already so we're just gonna have a great day," said Mow. "It really is. It might hit me in a week or two, but right now it's all good."
After about an hour in the sky, they finally touched down at the Washington National Airport with a band and many people cheering and welcoming them at the gate.
With a police escort and four buses it was time to start the tour. The first stop, the Marine Corps Memorial based on the iconic photograph of six Marines raising the flag during the battle of Iwo Jima in World War II. Three World War II Veterans were on this trip and two of them are brothers.
"The boys that didn't get there are the ones that really ought to be honored, Not us," said World War II Veteran Wayne Newman. "The ones that didn't get there and there were a lot of cemeteries there."
The Veterans also got a tour of the Arlington National Cemetery. The group watched the changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. There was also a wreath laying ceremony with a gift from the Greater Lafayette Honor Flight.
Both Ondis Brantley and Michael Sims were able to participate in this ceremony alongside the honor flight's co-founders.
Ondis said "All in all being 96, The world treated me pretty good," Sims added, "To me it was an honor and my thought was don't screw up."
One of the stops our Greater Lafayette heroes make is right here at the World War II memorial and just up the way they're going to head up to see the Korean and Vietnam War memorials.
An emotional visit for 77 Vietnam war veterans was visiting the memorial wall. On two acres and black granite, with more than 58-thousand names Allan Bergren was just looking for one in particular. With his cane, Bergen looked up and down the walls looking for his friend's names. Then he finally he saw it, Dennis B. Green.
Out of all the memorials, this is where the group spent the most time before heading to the Korean War Memorial and getting back on the bus to the airport. And on the plane it was time for mail call.
The veterans received letters from their family, friends and students from around Greater Lafayette all thanking them for their service, but also a time to share a final message for veterans to continue sharing their stories.
Tim Earls said over the plane speaker, "Go back to the schools and tell these young kids what freedom costs because it's not free. It cost something."
When the veterans arrived at the Purdue University Airport, another surprise was waiting for them. A crowd of hundred waiting to thank and welcome them home. This was all thanks to co-founders Dana Vann and Pam Mow
Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb said, "Oh my gosh you talk about special places in heaven reserved for Pam and Dana." He was also on the flight.
They finally were getting a welcome home ceremony most of these veterans never received, but always deserved.
"Hoosiers and Americans care for one another and recognize all that we have," said Holcomb. "We are blessed and it's because these 84 men and their brothers and sisters that have put on that uniform."
Even thought this is an end of an era, lasting memories were made for all those veterans who boarded a Greater Lafayette honor flight since 2012.
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