BAKERSFIELD - The seventh Honor Flight Kern County is in the history books. Nearly three dozen local World War II and Korean War veterans returned home Monday night after a whirlwind weekend of seeing their memorials in the nation's capitol. While each trip is special, each one is different. This time, there were quite a few unexpected surprises, even for the organizers.
A loud and proud crowd in Baltimore waited for our vets on the other side of a water salute when they arrived Saturday.
"Wow, it's impressive," said Les Walton, World War II veteran.
In the grateful crowd, Major Daneen Hutton who just returned home from Kuwait and was sobbing with pride that our guys and gals happened to cross her path.
"These guys, they saw horrible things and lost so much," said Major Hutton.
Those losses were remembered touring Washington D.C. The Korean War veterans laid flowers at their memorial.
At the Vietnam Memorial, Gold Star Mothers just happened to gather for Gold Star Mothers Day. The women in white who know the sacrifice of war, showed their gratitude.
"Thank you for everything you've done sir," said one mother shaking a World War II veteran's hand.
"I'm so glad people care," said World War II veteran Kenneth Purdue.
Congressman Kevin McCarthy opened up the Capitol building on Sunday for a private tour and photo opportunities, one in the Rotunda, and again on the Capitol's balcony.
"This is probably one of the most exciting things I've ever done. I really appreciate it. I appreciate the trip," said World War II veteran, Lloyd "Country" Huckleberry.
"I've never been so impressed in my 94 years. I'm just happy, overwhelmed, you could say I guess," said World War II veteran Forrest "Frosty" Frost.
The feelings flowed again as the World War II veterans finally set foot on their memorial, shaking hands and hearing the appreciation from many.
"And, they shake their hand out thanking us for what we accomplished once upon a time. That's satisfying after all of these years," said World War II veteran Richard Arambula.
"It's a tiring trip, but it sure makes you feel good," said World War II veteran, James Love.
"It's unreal, just beyond belief," said World War II veteran, Robert "Ted" Sutherland.
"It's a dream come true. I never thought I'd step foot on this beautiful monument. It's unbelievable. It just blows my mind," said World War II veteran, Ralph Lopez.
Unexpected emotions were followed by even more unexpected surprises at the Navy Memorial where Admiral Scott Sanders was preparing for his retirement ceremony, but stopped everything at the sight of our vets.
"My dad is no longer with us, but he's with you. You all mean so much to me. I salute every one of you," said Admiral Sanders shaking the hands of the veterans and choking back tears.
Experiencing so many special moments could be coincidence or possibly something more divine and meant to be, lined up like the veterans did for our country all those years ago.
For a much deserved final salute on the last leg home, mail call on the airplane. Letters from home, relatives, friends, and even complete strangers all saying thanks.
"You are the reason we are all able to live the life that we have today," read one letter.
They are words these men and women waited some 70 years to hear. It created a rush of joy, for some, too much all at once.