WASHINGTON — It's a day some have been awaiting for over 70 years, and one they won't soon forget. Fifty veterans from Utah are in our nation's capital with the Utah Honor Flight, on a free trip to see the memorials built in their honor.
The first stop of the day at the World War II Memorial was one of the trip's highlights. Completed about 10 years ago, the memorial came at a time when most of the war's veterans had passed away, and many of those remaining were unable to make the trip alone.
"You know, I feel like it's a little bit like, not like holy ground, but a little sacred for the memory of all those who put their lives in danger," said World War II veteran Richard Bean.
After visiting other sites on the National Mall, including the Korean, Vietnam, and Lincoln memorials, the veterans headed to the FDR Memorial before visiting a spot that's not so well-known, dedicated to a group of veterans who often don't get their due: the Women's Memorial.
It's located in a small, nondescript area near the entrance to Arlington National Cemetery.
Majorie Campbell was among the three women on the flight. She enlisted in the Navy and performed office work in Maryland. She had a boyfriend in her youth, and they planned to get married after the war, but his plane went down over Germany. Campbell decided to join the service and finish out his commitment to the country.
She says this trip is far beyond anything she'd imagined.
"It's wonderful," she said. "I can't believe all the things people have gone to, to make it special for us. I want to cry to begin with, but I am thrilled to pieces. I'm just thrilled that we were able to come."
Campbell and the other two women also received a special surprise: their photos and service records were entered into an official database and put on display at the Women's Memorial.
The final stop of the day was the area dedicated to the remains of soldiers who were never identified: the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery. It's been guarded nonstop since 1937.
"It represents a lot of battle," said World War II veteran Ben Cogdill, speaking of all the sights he took in. "A lot of blood. A lot of people sacrificed their lives for that."
This isn't the end for this group of veterans, however. Their planned stops for Saturday include the Air Force Memorial, Iwo Jima Memorial and a performance by the U.S. Navy Drill Team. They're expected to arrive back in Utah around 9 p.m. where a welcome home celebration is planned in the Capitol Rotunda.
If you'd like to help send more veterans to Washington, D.C., visit utahhonorflight.org.