They saved our nation, and now an effort is underway to get Kern County's World War II veterans to Washington D.C. to see their memorial. Honor Flight Kern County volunteers collected donations all day Thursday to fly those men across the country.
The goal is to raise $150,000 to fly our WWII vets to Washington D.C. for an all expense paid weekend in October.
It will be the second Honor Flight from Kern County. After the experience of the first one in May, organizers had no doubt they had to do this again. They witnessed emotions, like a single tear that rolled down veteran Erwin Waite's face.
"I'm so thankful that I didn't miss this," said Waite as he stood at the WWII monument in May.
So many veterans there felt the same. Some were in wheelchairs, but their souls were soaring. These heroes became overcome with memories of fallen comrades and were overjoyed with appreciation.
"I could never imagine anything like this, but I'm loving every minute of it," said WWII veteran Louis Kerker at the WWII monument in May.
That love is why organizers for Honor Flight Kern County want to give other local WWII veterans the same experience. They were out Thursday collecting every bit they could to make it happen.
"We owe so much to all of our veterans, but particularly these," explained Jack Gotcher who is on the Honor Flight Board. "It's time to take them to their memorial while we can."
"They are so appreciative," said Dick Taylor who was volunteering. "They are so humble, and they are just fun to be with. They are fun guys to hang with and they literally saved the world, but they don't think they did anything special."
About 90 veterans signed up for the second trip that will cover all the costs of the flight and weekend in D.C. It's an opportunity those donating didn't want the vets to miss.
"I think it's a wonderful thing, and I wanted to help," said Sandra Orozco who drove up to donate. "These men deserve it. My husband was a naval aviator, and I do it in his honor."
While donations came in, some WWII veterans came out to say 'thank you' for every dollar, every cent, and explain why a trip to their memorial means so much.
"I think mostly to pay honor to the ones that didn't come and won't get this chance," said WWII veteran Tom Dalton.
Organizers are are also looking for guardians to volunteer to go on the trip. Guardians have to pay their way and it costs about $1,200. You can call (661) 544-8387 if you are interested or if you would like to donate.