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Final Honor Flight South Dakota: Day 1

June 6, 2011, 5:24 PM by Erich Schaffhauser

Final Honor Flight South Dakota: Day 1
WASHINGTON, D.C. - More than 100 World War II veterans are back in the state after a trip to see their memorial in Washington, D.C. This was the twelfth and final South Dakota Honor Flight.

There's a lot to see and not a lot of time to rest for the vets in the first day alone. And the celebration all starts back in South Dakota.

Six 'o clock in the morning often meets a yawn, but not 6:00 Friday morning.

Erich Schaffhauser: Are you ready for the trip?
Selwyn Ronning: I've been ready 20 years.

World War II veteran Selwyn Ronning was anxious to board Honor Flight at the Sioux Falls airport. The city's mayor and Senator John Thune thought the more than 100 veterans were important enough to see off Friday.

Dozens more felt the same way as they welcomed the veterans off the plane in Washington, D.C. And with police on motorcycles clearing a path through busy city traffic, the treatment didn't end after the airport either.

Once they arrived at the Air Force Memorial, the memories came rushing back for Chuck Childs, who flew nearly 40 missions during the war.

"I was always scared but every day we had to go,” Childs said. “Just thought maybe I'd come back; I'd be lucky and I was.”

Some experienced similar feelings at the Marine Memorial where the group drew in another member of Congress in Rep. Kristi Noem.

The memorial shows the flag raising at Iwo Jima and was a reunion of sorts for brothers Leo and Robert Phillip who were both there during the war.

"He was within 35 miles of me and I didn't even know he was there," Robert said.

Arlington National Cemetery was next and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. For Childs, it was a reminder of friends who he lost who were killed right in planes he was flying.

"I won't get to see the graves. I did a long time ago, but they're buried at Arlington," Childs said. 

They’re still remembered at places like Arlington along the trip and still honored at places like the veteran's banquet. And they’re honored no less than those still alive to salute the flag today.

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