WASHINGTON, D.C. (KELO) — The relationship and shared experience between an honored veteran and that veteran’s guardian on the trip is at the heart of a Midwest Honor Flight journey to the nation’s capital.

Air Force veteran Dale Christensen of Watertown, South Dakota was one of 83 veterans honored on Wednesday’s Midwest Honor Flight journey.

“Incredible trip,” Christensen said. “It’s a big day, though.”

Veterans are paired with a guardian on Midwest Honor Flight missions to the Washington, D.C. area. Christensen’s guardian is Joe Steffen of Hartford, South Dakota, himself a Navy veteran who served during Operation Desert Storm. Steffen uses the word “awesome” to describe what it’s like being Christensen’s guardian.

“Just to see the joy in him and all these other guys that get to come up here for the first time and myself for the first time as a veteran,” Steffen said. “It’s just amazing to see all this.”

It’s a special feeling to know he is part of the veteran brotherhood.

“Very special,” Steffen said. “Yeah, gives me goosebumps.”

This trip provides a moving contrast for Christensen.

“Such an uplifting thing from when we came back in the 60s from the Vietnam War,” he said. “There was no recognition of it, so this is unbelievable.”

He and Steffen aren’t exactly life-long friends; they had met just the day previous to the trip.

“Last night was the first time,” Steffen said. “I called him about two weeks ago and talked to him on the phone for about 15 minutes. We chatted a little bit and then met him last night.”

Steffen signed up to be a guardian out of the goodness of his heart. And now he’s got more than just a buddy for the trip.

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“Oh yeah,” Steffen said. “For life.”