LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - More than 70 war veterans spent an eventful day at the nation's capital on Saturday.
Henry Ledford, at 99, made his first commercial flight Saturday during an Honor Flight to Washington, D.C. (Photo: WKYT/Phil Pendleton)
Kentucky's Touchstone Energy Cooperatives sponsored the one-day trip for Honor Flight Kentucky.
73 veterans began their journey bright and early Saturday morning. One of them was Lexington veteran B.J. Burnett, who entered the service 65 years ago.
"Well, just real excitement I get to see a lot of veterans. The weather is looking really good for us."
At 6 a.m. Saturday he and others boarded a charter flight for Washington, which was given a fire cannon salute as it taxied out of Lexington.
It's also quite a special day for Clay County veteran Henry Ledford, who served in Europe near the end of World War 2. This was his first time flying on a commercial jet.
"I love it. I want to do more of it."
Ledford, Burnett, and others touched down in Washington, D.C. to a hero's welcome. For Ledford, who is 99, it was even more of a special day all because of what Sunday will be - his 100th birthday!
Veterans say they were in awe of the honor shown them.
“It was awesome to see the football team and the cheerleaders,” says Lexington veteran Alvin Morton. “And [they] offered free hugs. I got one!”
Veterans laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington. And for Lexington veteran Julia Martin, it brought forth a lot of emotion.
"Just reminded me of those soldiers who didn't come home. I associate TAPS with burial."
Not only was this Henry Ledford's first trip on a plane, but it's also the first trip to Washington to see the memorial built in honor of his service.
"It touches your heart when you look at it. Wonderful."
Honor Flight came about to honor World War 2 vets because that generation is quickly dying off. But it is also now honoring Vietnam and Korean war veterans.
Knox County veteran Gary Smith summed up the feelings all of the veterans experienced during the whirlwind trip.
"It is an honor to take this trip, treated the way we have been treated today. Thank you."
From complete strangers to a police escort that got them quickly through a very congested city, and then the finale. Back home a welcome home celebration like none other.
"It was super,” said veteran James Frazier. “Never realized it could happen. We never got home like this. They outdid themselves today."
All in one day - a day that many here will never forget.