SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) — On Sunday at San Francisco International Airport a group of 25 elderly veterans gathered to begin a journey of remembrance where those who served in wartime are flown to Washington D.C. for three days.
“We think this is the best way to recognize them and honor them for their service,” said Carl Stewart, president of Honor Flight Bay Area Foundation.
In the nation’s capital they get a tour of the various monuments including the World War II Memorial and that of the Korean War. It’s enough to bring a tear to even the most stoic of soldiers.
“They may not be talking about it much but you look at their faces and they’re saying, ‘Gee, maybe I am a hero,’” said Honor Flight volunteer Richard Whittington.
Heroism comes with a steep price and many of these men — most now in their 90s — have silently carried emotional scars for the things they’ve seen.
John Lewis started out as a trumpet player in an Army band and he ended up helping liberate a Nazi concentration camp in Germany.
“I had nightmares for years and years after I came home and, if I talk about it, I become depressed,” Lewis said.
The Iwo Jima memorial will mean a lot to Joseph Manfrey, since he helped forces land on those beaches.
“I had a few friends — Marines — they were lost. Makes you sad. There’s never getting over that, is there? No,” he said.
Darell Basham, who served in Korea and Vietnam, is bracing himself for the moment he sees the black granite of the Vietnam Memorial.
“I had some friends out there that didn’t make it back so it’ll be emotional,” Basham said.
The purpose of the trip isn’t to stir up bad memories but to remind these men of the courage they showed in answering the call to duty.
It’s estimated that we are losing 400 World War II veterans per day. So Honor Flight Bay Area is hosting four trips each year. For more information: