Central Valley veterans leave on 21st Honor Flight to Washington, DC

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A group of Central Valley veterans is on the way to the U.S. Capitol to visit the memorials honoring them and their fallen comrades.

After more than two years of pandemic delays, the Central Valley Honor Flight took off from Fresno Yosemite International Airport this morning for its 21st trip.

"Finally, finally," exclaimed Sheldon Yost. "It's a great honor."

Sixty-three veterans, including Yost, will have the opportunity to visit their war monuments - a way to honor their service and sacrifice.

"My overseas tours were in Greenland, Hawaii, Guam and Vietnam," said Yost, a Vietnam War vet. "I spent two years in Area 51."

The group also includes those who served in the Korean War and World War II.

The oldest veteran on the Honor Flight is 100-year-old Gilbert Stocks, who shared his experience as a navy pilot in World War II.

"From there, I went to San Diego, operational training. From there, I went to Hawaii for operational training. From there, I went to Okinawa, finally, I got a squadron. The war was over then," recalled Stocks.

The three-day trip is a time for the vets to share their experiences with others and honor those who didn't make it back home to their loved ones -- or to D.C.

"Unfortunately, with this two-and-a-half-year pause, we had 25 veterans pass away, which is so sad," said trip leader Joe Fry. "We're going to be honoring them with a Flags of our Heroes."

The trip to D.C. is at no cost to the veterans. The Honor Flight Network said it's the generosity of the Central Valley that makes it all possible.

"They realize we wouldn't have our freedom without these 63 gentlemen and what so many others did," said Paul Loeffler, president of the Central Valley Honor Flight.

The Honor Flight returns Wednesday evening. Organizers invite the public to come out to the airport around 5 p.m. and welcome the vets home.

If you or a veteran in your life would like to sign up for a future Honor Flight, click here.

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