GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Eighty-eight local World War II veterans left early Wednesday morning for Washington D.C. to see the memorial created in their honor plus so much more.
WLOX News was at the Gulfport Biloxi International Airport when the veterans arrived and left for a journey of a lifetime.
America's active duty stood saluting the men and women they look up to.
While dozens of local law enforcement led the way as three bus loads of more than 80 veterans arrived before sunrise. Once inside the airport, their journey began.
James Nettles said, "Oh, I feel good. I'm ready to go."
He joined the Army in 1943. Served 28 months. And on this day, James Nettles already had a vivid memory staring him in the face before he even stepped foot on the plane.
"One boy here, we went to boot camp together, and I hadn't seen him since. I wouldn't even have known him if I hadn't seen his name," said Nettles.
This is the second Honor Flight to leave South Mississippi. On this flight, for the first time, two female veterans joined the travels.
Barbara Chachitz said, "Everything, everything. I'm going everywhere and I'm doing everything and I'm not going to miss a thing. And, I'm not going to sleep until I get home tonight."
Barbara Chachitz served two years in the Coast Guard. She said dark memories may be brought to light for some on the trip, but not her. She is ready to pay homage to her fallen comrades.
"I've waited so long for this and I've just decided it's going to be a fun time. No tears. You know you cry alone. You laugh, everybody laughs with you so we're going to be laughing all day," said Chachitz.
Besides the World War Two memorial, the group will visit a handful of other memorials including the Korean and Vietnam memorials. They will also observe a wreath laying ceremony.
Nettles said, "I mean I haven't seen it, so I want to see it all."
The Honor Flight will arrive back at Gulfport Biloxi International Airport at 7:30pm on Wednesday.
WLOX's Jeff Lawson and photojournalist Greg McNease traveled with the veterans to Washington D.C. Look for Jeff Lawson's stories on this group of veterans beginning Thursday night on the News at 6pm.