BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — A beloved tradition for our veteran community - Honor Flight 44 - kicked off Tuesday. Over 90 veterans and 87 volunteers from around Kern County are now in Arlington and will spend the next couple of days touring veteran memorials around the D.C. area. This year, 23ABC’s Vania Patino joined them on their trip and brings us a recap of their day.
A sea of blue and red filled Meadows Airport in Bakersfield as the veterans and guardians got ready to go.
"And here I am on my first Washington trip and I am really excited to go and see some of my fellow people that have gone and passed," said Air Force Veteran Erick Schipper.
Like Schipper, this is the first time many of those who have fought for this country will visit its capital. Family and even neighbors also stopped by to wish all these veterans a safe flight and good luck on this memorable trip.
Alan Swagerty and Teresa Jones live next to a veteran on the flight and even made a poster for him but add they were there to support all servicemen.
"It is an honor and it is nice to honor them especially because Vietnam when they came back they were looked down upon so now it is really great to give them the honor they need," said supporter Alan Swagerty.
The support was felt at every stop with people at the airport in Baltimore and even arriving at the hotel in Arlington holding signs and flags for their loved ones and the rest of the group.
For many vets, like Army veteran Hector Villapando, this has been a long time coming.
"My dream come true and I was so happy, you know like they said one door closes, another opens ups and here I am with my soldier friends, my battle buddies."
Villapando says he had been waiting to get on this bus and like for him and many others this trip is not just about them.
"There is a lot of names on that wall, a lot of guys went out there and did not come home," added Navy veteran Tom Darnell.