World War II veterans embark on 6th Central Valley Honor Flight

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- About 70 veterans from Central California have arrived in the East Coast for a journey of honor. The sixth Central Valley Honor Flight took off Monday morning and everyone arrived safely in Baltimore.

With a patriotic start, World War II veterans across Central California embarked on a journey from Fresno to the nation's capital. Many were full of excitement, like Lester Doyle, 89, of Porterville, who went into the service at 18.

"This is fantastic; a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," he said.

Doyle's brother John served as his guardian. All five of his brothers served our country.

At 96, Phillip Esparza was one of the first in line to board. He received a Purple Heart, Bronze Star and Silver Star for rescuing wounded soldiers.

"I enjoyed it, whether you believe it or not," said Esparza.

For the Esparza family, their story is one of service and sacrifice. Daughter Yolanda first met her dad when she was almost 4.

"He's been through a lot, and he's going to be 96, so we're all blessed because he is still here," Yolanda Esparza said.

For many like the D'Angelos of Modesto, the trip was a family affair: Dad served in World War II and his son served in Vietnam.

"It means a lot to me to go with my dad. It brings us closer together," John F. D'Angelo said.

Nearly 70 veterans were a part of the sixth Central Valley Honor Flight. A generation with a common bond decades later.

"Well, we're not going to be around much longer; another five years and most of us are going to be gone," World War II veteran Norm Bryan said. "And I think World War II is probably the biggest turning point this country has ever had."

Before they left, a final salute to our country and their service.

You can help give these veterans a warm welcome home. On Wednesday, they'll host a heroes homecoming at 6 p.m. at the Fresno Yosemite International Airport.

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