APPLETON, Wis. (WBAY) - One of the nation's most successful Honor Flight hubs reached a milestone Wednesday.
Old Glory Honor Flight's 40th trip arrived in our nation's capital Wednesday morning, a special journey connecting generations of Wisconsin veterans.
The vets were greeted at the airport in Washington, DC, by a crowd of people cheering for them and shaking their hands.
Veterans from Operation Desert Storm, Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operating Enduring Freedom, and Operation New Dawn are serving as guardians for vets from World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War.
"We say it's never too late to say thank you to our older vets. It's also never too early to say thank you to our younger vets," says Drew MacDonald, Old Glory Honor Flight president.
Old Glory Honor Flight is a non-profit organization that flies veterans to Washington, D.C. free of charge to see the memorials that honor their service and their compatriots who did not come back.
Wednesday's agenda included the WWII Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, Lincoln Memorial, FDR Memorial, and the Air Force Memorial.
The vets ended their trip with a visit to Arlington National Cemetery for the changing of the guard.
Korean War veteran Bernie Faust became emotional when talking about the trip.
"I've waited 60 years for this date. When I came home in '57 we just took off our uniform, found a job and went to work," Faust says. "This is like God sent now. People are going to appreciate that we served our country, and to be with the other veterans is wonderful."
Mr. Faust is wearing something special on the journey.
"The hat I'm wearing is the hat that I wore when i came home from the service," Faust says. "It's 60 years old. We didn't have baseball hats in those days. We wore this. This is our uniform. So I wanted to wear it today."
Army Specialist Brandon Fox, a veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, is serving as a guardian. He told Action 2 News he's looking forward to sharing an experience with the older veterans.
"Just how the military works, in general, is bringing everybody together. You're all one team. Yes, there is a gap in years over the time, but we're all part of one family," Fox says.
The vets left Appleton International Airport Wednesday morning and return Wednesday evening. A big welcome home will be held at the airport. The public is encouraged to celebrate the vets at 8 p.m. There will be music. Parking at the airport is free.
"The veterans from World War II, Korea and Vietnam, they didn't get giant welcome homes, especially the vets from Vietnam did not get a rousing welcome home when they got back," MacDonald says. "This is our opportunity, albeit a little late, to give them a huge welcome home parade."
Action 2 News' Jeff Alexander is traveling with the vets on this milestone Honor Flight. Watch our social media, website, and newscasts for coverage.
Old Glory Honor Flight's Northeast Wisconsin chapter started in 2009. Wednesday is their 40th flight.