Eight WWII real-life veterans set off for a trip of a lifetime Thursday morning with help from an on-screen war hero. They left from Tyler Pounds Regional Airport on their way to visit the National WWII Museum in New Orleans.

When asked what he wants to see when he gets there, veteran John D. Tolbert said, “Just to see things that I heard of you know, and I get to see it with my real eyes instead of what I heard.”

Helen Hornbury, another veteran going on the trip, was an Aviation Machinist Mate and graduated first in her class.

As part of their sendoff, nothing less than an on-screen hero would do. Actor Gary Sinise, better known as Lt. Dan from the film “Forrest Gump,” made a stop at the airport and made a big impression.

“No place in the country honors and expressive the sacrifices that were made in service to our country and the cost of freedom more than walking through the halls of the National WWII Museum,” Sinise said.

The Gary Sinise Foundation's Soaring Valor program and The National WWII Museum is a partner that gives the veterans the opportunity to visit Museum.

Sinise wanted to tell veterans how special they are and why this trip is so important.

In all 24 veterans will attend the event. An American Airlines flight will stop in Shreveport, LA to pick up the remaining 16 veterans.