Sixteen million men and women from the U.S. served in World War II and seventy years later just one million of them are still with us. Most of them have never seen the country's World War II memorial.
Thirty East Texas veterans took a plane to Washington D.C. Thursday.
Before the sun came up a crowd showed up outside Tyler's Brookshire's Fresh store to send their friends and neighbors off on what's called a "Heroes Flight."
"I know for at least the next two days there'll be thirty good men in Washington D.C.," a speaker said to applause during the pre-dawn ceremony. "How about that?"
"I was in the Air Corps in World War II and then I served, I finished out in the Army," veteran Jack Hetzel said.
In line to board the bus to the airport--and many miles from his destination--Jack Hetzel was already grateful.
"This means very much to me because I just really want to be with these heroes this weekend," he said.
"The landings, the freedoms," Brookshire's buyer Susan Newman said. "The stories are just so heart-warming."
This is the sixth heroes flight the people at Brookshire's have put together.
"A lot of times there will be school groups, kids that will come up to them and thank them, hug them, give them notes and encourage them," Rebecca Sanders said. Sanders is also with Brookshire's.
"They become a memorial at that point," Tyler Morning Telegraph Editor Dave Berry said. "And they're telling their stories and they're hugging people. It's just a tremendous, tremendous time."
It's a final salute to heroes who never run out of stories to tell.
"And on the way back, I'm going to enjoy that too," Hetzel said.
A total of 165 veterans from East Texas have been sent on Heroes Flights. The World War II memorial was finally finished in 2004.
Veterans on this trip will also be visiting the Washington Monument and Arlington National Cemetery. Congressman Louie Gohmert will take them on a tour of the nation's capital.
You can request an application for a future Heroes Flight by calling 903-534-3076.