FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Dozens of Valley veterans are taking the trip of a lifetime to Washington, D.C., as part of the 24th Central Valley Honor Flight.
They departed on a special chartered flight from the Fresno Yosemite International Airport at 8:15 Monday morning.
Prior to boarding, there was a procession and ceremonial send-off for the 68 veterans.
The feeling of appreciation could be felt throughout the airport, which is something many of the veterans didn't receive when they came back from serving the country.
"It really hurt at that time," said Bob Ayers, a Vietnam War veteran. "Today, there's so much honor given to us now. It's unreal."
"I was in the first group that came back and basically, I was the only one at the airport. Nobody knew I even came back," said Marine Corps veteran Marshall Sparesus, Jr.
Sparesus served in the Vietnam War from 1964-1968 as a reconnaissance scout.
He's on the cover of LIFE magazine, where he's pictured helping a Marine hit by a sniper.
"We were running out of ammunition, so we had to come to the quickest source to get ammunition to go back out, and that happened," Sparesus shared.
This group has veterans representing the US Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps.
While in our nation's capital, they'll visit the memorials dedicated to them and their brothers in arms, including the Iwo Jima, the Korean War and Vietnam War Memorials.
"I'm just looking forward to taking in everything," said Bob Kauffman, a Korean War veteran. "The whole idea is a real blessing for me."
There are two new stops this year -- the National Museum of the US Army and the US Capitol.
"We were invited by the Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy to go to the Capitol," said trip leader Joe Fry. "The other Valley congressmen will be there, and they're going to give us a VIP tour of the Capitol."
Organizers said the Honor Flight is truly a trip of a lifetime, and it's not possible without the Valley's generosity.
Since 2013, the all-volunteer organization has taken 1,599 veterans to their memorials at no-cost.
The group returns home on Wednesday around 6 p.m.
For more information, visit their website.
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