FORT LAUDERDALE-HOLLYWOOD INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, FLA. (WSVN) - A group of veterans took the flight of a lifetime to visit war memorials in Washington D.C.
“I was told that today would be the best day of my life,” said Korean War veteran Martin Friedman, “and it turns out that it is.”
They departed from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport with Honor Flight South Florida, early Monday morning, and returned home about 15 hours later to a warm welcome.
“It’s just amazing. It’s the most awesome thing I’ve ever seen,” said Korean War veteran Richard Cornelia.
Dozens of people showed up to welcome home the veterans and thank them for their service.
The veterans took part in a day trip to our nation’s capital and were able to visit the memorials that were built in honor of them and their fallen comrades.
Top priority was given to veterans with terminal illnesses and the senior heroes who served in World War II.
Out of the 72 on board the honor flight, seven were World War II veterans.
“It’s beautiful, but it brings back memories,” said World War II veteran John Moran.
Moran was just 16 years old when he went to serve in the war. Days after he turned 17, he landed on the beaches of Iwo Jima.
“They needed bodies. When you’re 16, you’re dumber than when you’re 17,” he said.
The five-week battle is often considered one of the bloodiest of the war. An estimated 6,800 to 7,000 Americans were killed in combat.
“We all had common experiences,” said World War II veteran Jerry Sloane.
Sloane, 92, visited the memorials with his son and two other close friends.
“This is a picture of me. I was 22 years old,” said Korean War veteran Martin Friedman.
Friedman and Sloane have known each other for nearly 70 years.
The two friends didn’t fight in the same war, but years ago they lived near each other in New York.
They recently reconnected after Sloane ran into Friedman’s son in the elevator of their Boca Raton building.
“We just feel very comfortable with each other, and we’ve become good friends again,” Sloane said.
It was a day of reflection, recollection and, for some, a step toward healing.
“I feel better that I finally confronted it,” said Vietnam veteran Auther Keys. “I’m not really over it, but part of my recovery was to go there, and I made it through. I was shaking, but I made it.”
“I’ve been interviewed before, but I’ve never said the things I’ve said today,” said Moran.
Their trip was the last flight from Honor Flight South Florida of 2019.
The next trip honoring our veterans leaving from South Florida will take place in April.
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