By Dean Stephens firstname.lastname@example.org
CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) - It was a rare chance to peek into the lives of some World War II veterans. They were just boys when they enlisted, but are all retirees now.
This past weekend, 35 of them were treated to what they said was a weekend like no other.
The faces are but a few of the millions who served our country during World War II. Billy Gilreath and dozens like him signed up to take part in Honor Flight Lowcountry.
"Its a chance to go back in history and look at things I forgot, and bring them back to mind I guess," said Gilreath.
It was a chance to check in on the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Their first stop was in Baltimore and a welcome full of surprises. The airport was full of supporters. There were quiet thanks and smiles that lit up a room.
A quick picture was taken before a 30-minute trip from the airport to the memorial. An escort from the airport led the men to the tree lined sidewalks of the memorial.
"My very first mission to Japan, we were forced to land in Iowa Jima. I was deeply indebted to Marines for their sacrifices they did give. The loss of life and they saved my life also," said Mel Price.
There are the words of a President and a plaque honoring the more than 400,000 lives lost.
"It means a lot. I can't put into words, but it means a lot, means so damn much tears coming out of my eyes," Edward Navarette, a World War II veteran.
The trip also a chance to educate and bring the war out of the shadows.
"So many of our young people, don't understand what went on during those days. Their attitudes are blaizse.They don't get it. Hope that some of this rubs off on them when they are here," said Jack Stahl, a World War II veteran.
On this day, their destination wasn't just the World War II Memorial.
They also visited the Vietnam Memorial to pay their respects to a war fought years later.
Ronda Greaves helped put the trip together. Her grandfather a World War II veteran himself died before the Memorial was built and reason why she started honor flight Lowcountry..
"Everything is all geared to the veterans making them happy and making them feel honored because they are honored they are treasures," said Greaves, the Vice-President of Honor Flight Lowcountry.
These men thought they had seen it all, that was until they arrived back in Charleston.
The sound of bag pipes filled the air, flags waved from every corner.
"It's absolutely phenomenal. I will never forget it as long as I live," said Price.
"I'm choked up. How can you explain it. Just great, just great,"said Navarrete.
The years will never separate these men from the wars they served or from those that stood by them..
"People of Charleston have been so kind and generous with their attention and friendship. It's been a great pleasure,"said Larry Hook, his wife of 7 decades sitting next to him.
A salute of thanks from a group of veterans grateful for the honor flight of a lifetime.
In the past four years, Honor Flight Lowcountry has taken 600 vets on this trip. If you know a World War II veteran or if you would like to volunteer to help. Visit www.Honorflightlowcountry.com.