WASHINGTON, D.C. (WKYT) - Bob Van Keuren is a Korean war veteran who on Saturday morning was about to join dozens of others on what many say is a trip of a lifetime.
Touchstone Energy sponsored the Honor Flight, which is a one-day round trip to Washington. Like many of the men…Van Keuren remembers his service vividly.
“Loaded boats with these young men…took them to the beach and they ran off and some of them we never saw again,” said the former minister from Whitley County of his service with the U.S. Navy in Korea.
Robert Williams was on a battleship when he saw an atomic bomb dropped on Japan.
“Sure enough at 8:20, that thing went up, never saw anything like it in my life,” said Williams, who now lives in Monticello.
The purpose is to show the aging veterans memorials built for them before it’s too late.
All were given a hero’s welcome when they arrived at the airport in Baltimore.
“It means I haven’t been forgotten. And It wasn’t all in vain,” said Charles Lee of Nicholasville, who served in both Korea and World War II.
Soldiers from Georgia even made a 10-hour, one-way trip just to meet them.
“People still care. Little bit anyway. They appreciate it,” said Arthur Lee Crain of Perryville.
The memorials pay tribute to those who served..and paid the ultimate price.
“I think this is the nicest monument up here. You see it all. Represents every state. Really nice,” said Crain, sitting just below the part of the World War II monument that honors the service from Kentucky, on the Atlantic side.
Despite their tremendous sacrifice, many remain very humble. One even said he didn’t know what he did to deserve all the applause heaped on him and others at the airport and all along the way to D.C. and back again.
Some are honored for protecting freedom. And others for preserving those rights beyond the U.S. boundaries.
“To defend them at any cost. Whether it is our lives, our fortunes, or our health,” said Van Keuren while looking at the Korean war memorial.
On board the Southwest flight home another war time tradition. ‘Mail call’…a time during conflict when servicemen received to letters from home.
Then back home….another hero’s welcome.
“I sum it up by saying one of the greatest days of my life. Enjoyed every bit of it,” said Williams, who will soon turn 91 but admitted he didn’t think he’d live to see the end of World War II when he served as a teenager.