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15 Vietnam veterans leave on Honor Flight



Bedford, Virginia – The non-profit Honor Flight Network takes groups of veterans to Washington D.C. to tour military memorials for free.

Over 295,000 veterans have been to Washington D.C. on Honor Flight since 2005. Friday brought 15 more.

The National D-Day Memorial in Bedford hosted 15 Vietnam veterans. They visited the memorial, ate a breakfast provided by local Daughters of the American Revolution chapters, and watched the Bedford JROTC’s changing of the guard before driving to D.C.

Due to our proximity to the capitol, these veterans’ Honor Flight was an Honor bus.

I think it’ll be a great time, we’ll have a lot of war stories to tell and a lot of shared experiences,” Steve Ferguson, an Air Force veteran said.

President and CEO of Central and Southwest Virginia Privilege Flight Martin Leamy said leading these trips is a privilege.

“This is one of the most honorable things I’ve ever been associated with in my entire life,” Leamy said. “It’s truly an honor to be able to provide these trips for folks.”

Many veterans on the trip stated they’d been waiting for this. On Friday’s bus, Vietnam veterans complained they weren’t welcomed home with parades or signs. They started this vacation feeling like ‘thank you.’

It’s exceptionally meaningful for the Vietnam veterans because we didn’t get the welcome home that everyone else got. So, this is a way to give back a bit and show some honor and respect for us and the job we did there. All of us went to fight for our country but we didn’t get received the same way many people did,” Ferguson said.

Former servicemen stated visiting the memorials gave them closure, Leamy added.

“In the case of the Vietnam veterans, they were treated poorly when they returned from overseas, and we want them to understand that their service is valued by their fellow citizens. That’s the biggest takeaway we want them to have from the trips,” Leamy said.

For Ferguson, the trip is about remembering those who fought before him.

This is my way of not only seeing these monuments but also paying respect to the guys who went before me,” Ferguson said.

Many soldiers are thrilled to visit memorials with others who’ve had similar experiences.

“We get to go to D.C. and see some of the stuff we haven’t seen before,” Richard Gramling, an Air Force veteran said. “I think it’s good that we can get together. Army, Navy, Air Force, it doesn’t matter– as long as you served.”

The group’s D.C. itinerary includes the Vietnam Wall and Arlington National Cemetery’s changing of the guard.

The wall is going to be the hardest part for me I think,” Gramling said.

According to Leamy, the Honor Flight, the National D-Day Memorial, local DAR chapters, the VFW Post in Charlotte, the American Legion Post 177 in Fairfax, and Mission BBQ collaborated on this trip. Without their community partners, he continued, it would not be possible.

On Sunday at noon, they are anticipated to return to the D-Day Memorial for a lunch provided by Mission BBQ.

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