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SALT LAKE CITY — Many World War II veterans who go on a Utah Honor Flight say the most powerful and emotional time is the moment they enter the national memorial dedicated to their service.
Often pushed in wheelchairs by their guardians, these men and women of "The Greatest Generation" roll into the national World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., and are instantly flooded with appreciation by other visitors.
That's the kind of experience Claire Cardon is looking forward to sharing with her father, Daniel Friedman. And that's why she wants to go with him on a Utah Honor Flight as his guardian.
"I'm very close to him," Cardon said at a recent guardian training class. "To be able to do something like this with him is really important to me."
Friedman served in the Army Air Corps. When Cardon was growing up, she said her father told her stories about his experiences as they watched war movies together. She admires him and those who served with him.
"They didn't complain, they did what they had to do," Cardon said. "They followed orders, and our world is a better place because of them."
The KSL Utah Honor Flight takes off next week with 66 Utah World War II vets on board. Each is accompanied by a guardian who will stay with the veteran throughout the trip.
The guardians are there to make sure the veterans enjoy the visit to their memorial without any worries. Spouses are not allowed for medical and safety reasons, so many of the guardians are sons and daughters or other close family members. While the veterans make the flight with all expenses paid through donations, the guardians pay their own way.
Some guardians are volunteers, eager to help and share the experience. Utah Valley University senior student Andy Pierucci is one such volunteer who sees the Honor Flight as a chance to walk with heroes.
"I'm looking forward to seeing the veterans light up, and to act a little bit younger, and just to be able to thank them for their service," said Pierucci, who is paired with Bob Wright of Orem for next week's flight.
Both of Pierucci's grandfathers served in World War II, but they passed away before the memorial was finished a decade ago. Pierucci, too, is amazed by the dedication and sacrifice of that generation.
"They went out and changed the world," he said. "They were so humble about it and lived amazing lives, and you would never know that's what they did."