WASHINGTON — They've dreamed of this day. In some ways, they've been dreaming of it for more than 70 years.
"It's just totally awesome," said World War II Marine veteran Dale Workman. "As my great-grandkids would say, this is totally awesome. To think that the American people would think as much of what we've done, what we did — to go through this, it's really humbling."
Workman is one of 53 veterans to take a free trip to visit the World War II Memorial, thanks to the Utah Honor Flight. Only completed about 11 years ago, this memorial came too late for the vast majority of those who served. For the veterans who are still with us, seeing it with their own eyes is something they've been waiting for.
"I've read about it," said Navy veteran Sam Allman. "But it was just such a beautiful thing to be able to be there myself.”
"I've always wanted to come here and see this," said Workman. "Seen pictures, seen it on the news, seen it in books, seen it in pictures, heard people talk about it, but just to come and see it in person, it's just so, so overwhelming."
They all felt the appreciation of a grateful public as they were showered with applause and gratitude at the memorial — but for some, this visit stirred up visions of the past.
"All the places I've been," said Navy veteran Max Berry. "Some of the memories wasn't so great, but it was good to go and see these things."
Some had never even visited Washington before. And for others, their memories of this city are from a different era.
"I was here in ’46," said Army Air Corps veteran Evan Hansen. "I wanted to return, and I have returned."
No matter their circumstances, nearly every veteran was left dumbfounded by the feelings this trip evoked.
"The headline in this photograph … I found of me on the Internet, said something about 'overcome with emotion,’” said Navy veteran Ken Baldridge, speaking of seeing himself on KSL.com. "And that's been it — I've been a basket case."