SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — More than 2,000 veterans and their guardians were treated to a day of recognition and gratitude by Honor Flight of the Ozarks.
80 veterans from the Ozarks took their flight last week. The bulk of those veterans served in or during the Vietnam War and said it was an emotional experience.
The Vietnam Wall was constructed to memorialize more than 58,000 American military members who did not make it home.
Richard Biscoito did make it back. He wasn’t going to miss the Honor Flight experience.
“I think if you’re able, you definitely should make it. You’ve got a lot of names here that can’t take the trip,” said Biscoito.
Some Vietnam veterans take imprints of the names of friends they lost. Others are overcome by emotion just seeing the names.
“I spent one tour there; 13 months, two monsoon seasons. That’s enough for me,” said US Army Vietnam veteran Steven Watson. “I’m glad to be home and glad to be safe.”
Army veteran James Rimpson survived his tour of duty in Vietnam. His Honor Flight far exceeded anything he experienced on his return home from combat.
“I was on the plane by myself coming from Vietnam and I flew to Washington, then I flew to Kansas City and that was it. I got off and got a job.”
The trip often is just as memorable and emotional for the veterans’ guardians who are usually family members. Tara Dennis witnessed the impact the day had on her father, Steve Moody, a Vietnam-era Army veteran.
“It’s very emotional. I really didn’t expect all the emotions that I was gonna have, but when we stepped off the plane in Washington and people started clapping when we got off the plane, I immediately started crying. I looked over to see him tearing up and, wow, I didn’t expect to get so emotional,” said Tara Dennis.
Volunteer Kelley Ritter has seen the Honor Flight experience profoundly impact too many veterans to count, but on Korean War veteran’s reaction stands out.
“When we were going through the color guard he turned to me and he said, ‘They all are so young!’ and I said, “Well, how old were you?’ and he said, ‘Seventeen.’ I said ‘This is what you looked like!’ and he was like ‘I don’t know.'”
“All day long people were coming up to him and thanking him and he just kept getting so emotional and he was like, ‘Why are they thanking me?’ and so yeah, you know, we just need to remember to do that more often.”
Honor Flight of the Ozarks will take two more trips this year. They’re now accepting applications for 2024 flights. You can find the information on their website on how to apply.