GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - The seventh and final Mississippi Coast Honor Flight is now in the books. The trip began Tuesday morning, when 70 WWII veterans, along with volunteers and guardians, boarded a flight in Gulfport.
As they waited to board, the emotions were already beginning to surface.
"Thank God for this trip, and thank God for my son being with me," Alvin Miller Sr. of Biloxi said. Miller served in WWII. His son was a medic in Vietnam.
By 7 a.m. it was off to Washington on a U.S. Airways charter flight.
When the veterans arrived at Reagan National Airport, volunteers were there to greet them with some WWII era music and a lot of hugs and kisses.
By late morning, three chartered buses had taken the veterans on the short trip from Arlington, to the memorial site. After a bagpipe player led them onto the memorial, the veterans laid a wreath at the Mississippi marker.
Then they had about an hour to walk around and take in the magnificent place that was built many decades after the war ended.
William Monk is a WWII veteran from Biloxi who made the trip.
"It means the world to me. It is something we waited for years to see and we finally got to see it," Monk said.
Robin Wells was at the memorial with her 93-year-old father. He barely survived numerous bombing missions during the war. Wells spoke of her admiration for her father, and called the trip to the memorial a dream fulfilled for her dad.
During their time at the memorial, some of the veterans stopped at the place where 4,000 stars represent the 400,000 brave Americans who never made it back home.
WWII veteran Floyd William's talked about how lucky he and his fellow veterans truly are for having made it through the war.
"I am full of gratitude on this day. I am so glad to be an American," Williams said.
Mark Uher, who lives outside Hattiesburg, was William's guardian for the trip.
Choked with emotion, he said, "When you look around, if not for these guys, we would not be here. That is what it means to me, and I am proud to be here."
As was the case with previous trips, the visit also included stops at several other memorial sites in Washington, and the Changing of the Guard ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery.
When they got back home, once again there was a tremendous reception at Gulfport/Biloxi International Airport.
Mississippian's truly love their WWII veterans.
Be sure to join WLOX/CBS on November 19th at 6:30 p.m. when we present Reflections of Honor, a look back at the seven Honor Flights to the WWII Memorial.