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THROWBACK THURSDAY: The First Honor Flight

This is a story from the WQAD News 8 archives from November 2008 by reporter Chris Williams.

WASHINGTON, DC – It was in October 2008 when the very first Honor Flight of war veterans made their way from the Quad Cities to Washington, D.C.

The program was designed to make sure the aging World War II veterans would be able to see the new memorial built in their honor.

That first flight involved 98 veterans and travel companions, and News 8's Chris Williams who recorded the thoughts of some of those on the trip.

What wasn't expected was a visit by former Secretary of State Colin Powell who met the Quad City contingent at the World War II memorial.

"How are you sir?" he asked veterans, many sitting in wheelchairs surrounding him.

"Thank you for your service, thank you."

The reason Powell was there was simple.

"So it's just a small token of my respect for them to come down and welcome them when they come down to the World War II memorial," he told News 8.

"It's a generation that's now passing on and I'm glad they have an opportunity to come and see the memorial that is here especially for them."

Here are some of the comments made by those veterans who were there that day:

"I appreciate this, I'm humbled by all this help.  It wasn't too long ago when they came up with the Vietnam War memorial.  And we kept saying 'What are they going to do for the World War II people?'  And now we've got it now.  We're real proud of it."

"It's just a, it's a wonderful experience, It brings back memories.  The people out here have been just wonderful.  So many young people have come up and thanked me for serving in World War II."

"And it's a shame that everyone can't come here and have a look at it."

"A lot of people can't be here.  But it's a great adventure."

"We brought this here today not only to represent him, a fallen comrade from my ranks, but this flag also represents those 400-thousand of your World War II buddies that never made it home during World War II.
What we'll do is we'll leave this flag here while the time we're here in remembrance of those fallen comrades."

"I can't believe it.  It's just unbelievable.  I wish my family could be here with me.  But they know I'm here and they're with me."

"Oh, I don't know.  I'm enjoying it all.  I enjoyed every bit of it."