Valley veterans hit the skies for 15th Central Valley Honor Flight

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The sound of a bugle welcomed 63 Valley veterans to the 15th Central Valley Honor Flight Monday morning. They are making their way through the Fresno Yosemite International Airport and to Washington DC where they will visit memorials honoring their service.

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More than 60 veterans from eight different counties are on the trip.

Honor Flight Board Member Paul Loeffler said, "It is really hard to predict how some of them are going to react, some guys are very stoic-- others you will see them and it might be something simple like a six-year-old kid with a flag in their hand and shaking their hand and saying thank you and you see a 90-year-old marine start crying."

Leo Gonzales of Kingsburg served in the army for eight years, this is the first time he makes the trip to DC. On this morning, he was escorted to the airport by a police motorcade.

"That was really a surprise to me. My doorbell rang, I thought my nephew was going to pick me up, but it was my grandson with about 15 motorcycles."

Joseph Soldo was the only World War Two veteran in the group. Soldo survived the Battle of the Bulge and being a prisoner of war.

"Most of the time we kept on the move, and this was good, because being cooped up in a room is no picnic."

Soldo said he was forced to march through Germany and even Poland, all while carrying an injured ally on his back. He's still haunted by what he saw in Auschwitz.

"It was horrible, they had a woman full time to take the gold out of the corpses."

But now, at the age 94, Soldo will get to see the World War Two Memorial dedicated to the sacrifices made by him and so many others.

"These guys went through things that we can't even imagine. They are carrying around wounds today, some of them still have shrapnel in their bodies. They lost friends, they went through things that no one should have to go through and this is something that can bring closure for them," said Loeffler.

The Honor Flight returns to the Valley on Wednesday. The community is invited to come out and welcome our vets back home.

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Valley veterans packed their bags and took off to Washington DC Monday morning for the 15th Central Valley Honor Flight.

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