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Local Vietnam veteran reflects on Honor Flight Experience

Posted: 7:22 PM, Nov 06, 2019
Updated: 2019-11-06 22:22:52-05

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — Honor Flight Kern County hosted their annual fundraiser Wednesday to raise money for their next flight taking off April 7, 2020. They are hoping to send over 100 veterans next year to the nation's capital.

Since the program started in 2012, they have flown over 1,600 Kern County veterans.

23ABC spoke to John Carlson, a veteran, who shared a little bit of what his honor flight was like when he landed.

Carlson was drafted in 1968 and served in the 101st Airborne division in Vietnam.

Carlson earned a purple heart and four bronze stars during his service. When he returned home he officially became a veteran.

“I came back to the states and became a Veteran on Veterans day 1969,” said Carlson.

When his Honor Flight arrived at the nation's capital, he experienced a moment he hadn't felt before.

"A cheering mob of people at the airport. It's something that the Vietnam vets didn’t experience when they came home. It was totally opposite,” said Carlson.

Carlson said for him it was closure. “A feeling of finally being accepted I suppose. It was nice - brings tears to my eyes all the time.”

During the trip Carlson was chosen to carry the wreath to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

Carlson says it sharing the experience with fellow veterans was the experience of a lifetime.

"You could go on your own, but you don’t get the same experience when you go with veterans. Chances are you don’t know any of these guys but it’s just being with a group of fellow combat people or veterans that you can experience this whole thing that happens over there. It's really special,” said Carlson.

The support of his service to his country being honored and accepted meant everything to Carlson.

“I plead for people to contribute so that we can send more and more veterans back because it’s so special, it means something to them like I said it’s a form of closure. Especially for the Vietnam vets – its something they’ve never received before. It's really special," said Carlson.

If you were unable to stop by one of the locations, you can also donate online .