WASHINGTON D.C./ST. LOUIS (KSDK) - A group of World War II veterans took a Greater St. Louis Honor Flight to Washington D.C. Tuesday to see the World War II memorial for the first time.
It's always an emotional journey, but it's what happened on the way home that moved many to tears.
Their return flight was canceled due to weather and other issues.
Karl Lund serves as a flight leader and photographer for St. Louis Honor Flight.
As he prepared to arrange hotel rooms and separate flights for the veterans, something pretty incredible happened.
"Southwest Airlines said, 'No, not our guys, not our heroes,'" Lund said.
Southwest dispatched a new aircraft with a new crew to personally pick up the veterans.
Lee Nagy is one of many Southwest employees who helped coordinate the effort.
"The management team here along with the ops agent and all the customer service agents, we got together and decided we had to figure out a way that Southwest could get these folks where they needed to go," Nagy said. "Many of these folks, we understood, had medical issues, and I think a surgery tomorrow, so we wanted to make sure that we honored our veterans as well as get them to where they needed to go."
They left Washington D.C. at 12:30 a.m. EDT and flew non-stop to St. Louis.
"They were all touched. They were shaking hands with the crew, hugging the crew, thanking the crew. Southwest went above and beyond. I couldn't believe it when they told us they were fueling up a jet to come and get us," Lund said.
Lund says he's volunteered on many flights and has never seen this happen before. He called it a rescue mission.