This day trip is called an Honor Flight. Some of the youngest of those war veterans are in their 80’s. Many will see those memorials for the first time in their entire lives.
Retired U.S. Army Sergeant Emil Waigan is a German-speaking immigrant from Yugoslavia and served in Germany during the Korean War. This man has traveled the world. But, explained why he never got to see the memorials dedicated to his friends killed in action.
“I had 8 children,” he laughed. “My working, I usually worked 12 to 16 hours a day.”
Retired U.S. Air Force Sergeant George Grant served in World War II and said he had only been able to visit one memorial. He was ready to see more.
“I don’t know who’s paying for it. But, it’s wonderful what they’re doing.”
While the Greater St. Louis Honor Flight and the USO of Missouri helped the military men and women board their predawn flight, Waigan said it was others who paid the ultimate price for his day trip.
“I’m glad I can do that, because there are a lot of soldiers who died so I can come here.”
Many of veterans live at the Aberdeen Heights Residential and Assisted Living Center in Kirkwood, Missouri. The flight had been scheduled since before the government shutdown closed the military memorials to the public. Pushback from veterans groups and politicians allowed the U.S. Parks Service to open the museums to military service men and women, only.