WASHINGTON — It was a wake-up call long before dawn Saturday for 82 veterans taking part in Midwest Honor Flight Mission 7 from Sioux Falls. The veterans, their guardians, medics, and flight crews all arrived at Sioux Falls Airport for a 5:15 a.m. flight to Washington.
South Dakota Air National Guard Members presented colors during the National Anthem before boarding.
The plane – decked out in patriotic colors and staffed by red, white, and blue-clad flight attendants – was met on the tarmac at Reagan with a water-cannon salute.
Once inside, airline personnel, supporters, and passers-by welcomed the vets to D.C. – some holding flags and signs.
The group boarded buses and began the day at the Iwo Jima Memorial. From there, going to witness the changing of the guard at Arlington National Cemetery.
Vets and guardians were treated to a panoramic view from the three spires of the U.S. Air Force Memorial next to the Pentagon – designed in the traditional “missing man formation” – and reaching 201 feet at it’s highest point.
Walking through West Potomac Park, the group visited the FDR Memorial, and got a clear view of the Washington Monument before loading up and heading to the World War II Memorial with it’s intricate fountains and pillars.
There, two veterans of the Second World War – from South Dakota and Iowa – sat in front of the Wall of Stars, which contains 4,048 stars – one for every one-hundred Americans killed during the conflict.
The group walked along the reflecting pool to the Lincoln Memorial and then the Vietnam Memorial, where vets were able to find the names of their comrades etched in granite.
These veterans were greeted back at Sioux Falls Airport with bagpipes and veterans holding flags. They were loaded onto buses and escorted to the Sanford Premier Center, where a massive crowd cheered them on as they unloaded.
A long day full of emotion for our nation’s veterans, who – thanks to the kindness of strangers – were able to go on “one final tour with honor.”
You can catch more stories from Midwest Honor Flight all this week here on NewsCenter1.