Andres Gutierrez, NBC 5 News
Honor Flight DFW is taking a group of veterans, 40 men and one woman, on an all-expense-paid trip to visit various war memorials in Washington, D.C.
A North Texas nonprofit organization is taking a group of veterans on an all-expense-paid trip to visit war memorials in the nation's capitol.
The 40 men and one woman traveling on American Airlines flight 836 have not seen the memorials honoring their service -- until now.
Honor Flight DFW is paying for the group to visit the World War II, Korean and several other war memorials in Washington, D.C.
R.V. Burgin, a Bronze Star and Purple Heart recipient, served in difficult and bloody battles in Okinawa, Japan, and Peleliu, in what is now Palau. HBO used his memoir, "Island of the Damned," as a basis for one of the characters in its miniseries "The Pacific."
At 90 years old, the Lancaster resident is visiting the memorials for the first time.
Mark Mettille, an honor-flight volunteer, is serving as his guardian during the trip. Each veteran is partnered up with a volunteer. They said their relationship is more like father and son.
"We go fishing every time we get," Burgin said. "We don't catch a lot, but we go fishing."
"He's selling himself short," Mettille said. "He catches a lot. I just get to hold the net."
Mettille decided to call Burgin five years ago.
"He picked up the phone that day; we started talking like we'd known each other for 20 years," Mettille said. "It was natural conversation, we've been fishing buddies ever since."
Honor Flight DFW's trips are so successful that more than 400 veterans are on a waiting list. However, the average age of the veterans is 91 years old, and many will never be able to go on the trip.
"You see the tears in their eyes when they tell you their story and you listen, and it really means something," said Rachel Hedstrom, a Honor Flight DFW board member.
Hedstrom, who is also Mrs. Texas International, is at every departure to send off the veterans.
"A lot of them didn't get this big thank you when they got home, so this is the ultimate thank-you, the homecoming they never got," she said.
Honor Flight DFW has held eight flights so far this year but needs donations. The cost of the two-day trip for the veterans is approximately $1,000.
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