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Paying them back: Franklin County Honor Flight takes local vets to DC war memorials

This weekend marked the 60th trip for the Franklin County group, which has transported 3,000 American war veterans to our nation's capital.

WASHINGTON, D.C., USA — A special military mission winged its way to our nation’s capital last weekend.

On Saturday morning, Honor Flight organizers, 26 veterans and their escorts boarded a plane at St. Louis Lambert International Airport. Almost all of the veterans on this trip served in Vietnam.

Franklin County Honor Flight is dedicated to honoring World War II, Korean and Vietnam war veterans by escorting them to Washington, D.C., to see the memorials built in their honor.

Since 2006, Franklin County Honor Flights has transported more than 3,000 veterans to D.C. to visit these memorials. 

Supported entirely by donations, Franklin County Honor Flight is the first organization of its kind west of the Mississippi. The veterans’ portion of this overnight trip was paid for by the Franklin County Cattlemen’s Association.  

Korean War veteran Robert Coombs discussed his experience.

“This is nice,” Coombs said Sunday morning while touring the Washington Monument. “I’ve been waiting for it.”

Army veteran Hubert Propst agreed.

“I love it,” Propst said. “It’s a wonderful bunch of people who did a good thing for us veterans.”

Dave Hall is the founder of Franklin County Honor Flight.

“I think we owe them our country and our freedoms,” Hall said. “It’s just a way to pay back.”

At Reagan National Airport, the Missouri veterans received a hero’s welcome. Fellow passengers applauded as the group in bright yellow matching T-shirts filed through the airport.

“I guess somebody went up there and told them the Honor Flight had landed, and there was going to be a bunch of veterans coming through,” Air Force veteran Dennis Henson said. “It was very moving. I’ve had a hard time keeping from getting pretty choked up about it.”

At the Vietnam Memorial, veteran Eldo Meyer and Honor Flight guardian Charlie Schuenemeyer located the name of a fallen service member they knew: Dale Griefe.

“We know the family,” Meyer said. “We’re friends with the brothers.”

“Dale Greife was a helicopter pilot," Schuenemeyer said, "and his mother was a sixth-grade math teacher at Union.”

In addition to the memorials dedicated to the wars these veterans served in, they were also treated to tours of the National Air and Space Museum, the Washington Monument and memorials for Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Iwo Jima, the 9/11 Pentagon and the Changing of the Guard at Arlington National Cemetery.

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