S.C. veterans see World War II Memorial for the first time

World War II veterans receive a happy homecoming to Columbia.

COLUMBIA (WACH)-- Each day in the United States, around 1,400 World War II veterans die, most without ever visiting their memorial in Washington, D.C.

Nearly 100 South Carolina veterans finally got the opportunity to see the World War II memorial last week, thanks to Honor Flight of S.C.

The site, stirred a lot of emotions in the veterans. "We lost a lot of good men, " says Walter Perry.

Perry is an Army veteran, and fought during the Battle of the Bulge. When he reflects on his service, he thinks of his fallen brothers.

"Those guys paid for what we have today," says Perry.

The same feelings of loss flood veteran John Ernandez at the memorial. He fought at Normandy on D-Day.

Ernandez says, "I can see those boys, they were all my friends."

Many veterans on the trip still refuse to talk about the war, but Honor Flight gives them the chance to be with their brothers once again.

Columbia businessman Bill Dukes created Honor Flight of South Carolina. Its mission is to take all South Carolina World War II veterans who haven't been to the memorial, to see it.

"After the first flight, I realized these gentlemen appreciate what we're doing, and how much it meant to them and I just kept going."

The trip starts at Columbia Metropolitan Airport, where the veterans and guardians fly to D.C. on a chartered jet.

Once in the nation's capital, the group tours the World War II memorial. They also enjoy a tour of the city and visits to the Korean, Vietnam and Iwo Jima memorials and monuments. The final stop is Arlington Cemetery.

The trip is free for veterans. The guardians, who escort the veterans, pay $500.

When the veterans arrive back in Columbia later in the evening, they receive the homecoming they never had. Hundreds of family members, friends, and residents come out to cheer for the veterans, and welcome them home.