SALT LAKE CITY — A group of Utah's World War II veterans are headed to Washington, D.C. to see the monument created in remembrance of their sacrifice approximately 70 years ago.
Twenty-four Utah veterans are participating in the first Honor Flight send-off of the year.
Few World War II veterans are still alive to see the memorial. But for those who are boarding a plane for the nation’s capitol Monday morning, it is meant to be a memorable experience and a way for the public to show gratitude for the veterans' selfless sacrifice.
Utahn Joseph Jenkins is the oldest World War II vet and turns 95 in September. Jenkins fought in World War II for four and a half years and still remembers it clearly.
"Two years, 10 months, and 20 days - no shower," Jenkins said. "Well, I did go swimming in the Mediterranean Sea... but the soap didn't work very well."
He says he saw and experienced just about everything and had several close calls with bombs.
"I had a good friend I lost," Jenkins remembered. "He was in the same tent as me."
But there is one thing the trip Monday is finally giving him the opportunity to do.
"I'm going to see if I can find (my friend's) name on the monument," Jenkins said.
After returning home from the war, Jenkins says the strongest lesson he learned, and is now passing on to others, is to "live a better life."
Utah native and WWII veteran Owen Staley says this trip to see the World War II monument is because of his daughter.
"I owe most of it to my daughter who heard about it and said, 'Dad, we're going,'"Staley said. "I remember as a young 18 year-old I was thrilled to go to the Army not realizing all that was going to take place."
"I appreciate so much the fact that he has served," said Staley's daughter Terry Fielding. "He hadn't had a chance to get back and visit the memorials so I thought this would be a good way to honor him."
The group gathered at the Utah National Guard base at 8 a.m. for a special ceremony. Then they boarded buses to take them to Salt Lake International Airport for the flight to Washington, D.C. The Utah National Guard, along with people around the country, made the trip possible through donations.
The entire Utah Congressional delegation will welcome the veterans to the capitol.
A ceremony will be held there, and medals will be awarded to the brave men. They will be taken to the World War II monument, the Vietnam and Lincoln memorials, Washington Monument, and several other landmarks.
The group is expected to return home to a flag line June 25.
Those who would like to participate should line the street of 700 North and 2200 West by 4:30 p.m. to honor the vets as they return home.
The next similar send-off is scheduled for September.