WASHINGTON, D.C. (KERO) — Kern County veterans continued their trip to the nation's capital as part of the 44th Honor Flight.
Over 80 Vietnam veterans from Kern County were able to visit the Vietnam Memorial on Wednesday. The wall has the names of those who lost their lives in battle, many of whom were friends and family members of those on this honor flight.
For many like U.S Air Force vet Armando Solis, seeing his brother’s name on the wall opened an invisible wound.
"It is like my brother is home. That is why I am here, cause he is not here to see it. I am here to see it through my eyes for him," said Solis.
Chris Balderas, a Vietnam Army veteran, talked about his fellow servicemen and cousin who was killed in action in 1966 with a picture in hand he was there to pay tribute to him. But that is not the only picture he brought.
"He was wounded in Korea, and the reason I brought it is because my dad never got the chance to come here to this memorial to see it. And I wanted to bring this photo that matches with the memorial in the background in his remembrance."
Balderas says his dad had plans to come on the trip but his health took a turn and now Balderas is bringing him through A photograph.
And he is not the only one. Carol Kurtis’ brought her husband through a photograph and his burial flag.
"It was very emotional for me. I just wish my husband could have been there to enjoy it."
Aside from visiting the Vietnam, Korean, and World War II memorials the group also got a front-row seat at the capitol building, greeted by Bakersfield Congressman Kevin McCarthy.
McCarthy's office issued the following statement after the visit: "Today, I was proud to welcome Honor Flight Kern County back to the United States Capitol for the first time since the start of the pandemic. There were 94 veterans in attendance stretching across all branches of our military, including a World War II veteran and two 'Rosie the Riveters.' This visit felt particularly special as we returned to the time-honored Honor Flight tradition, one that our community deeply reveres. It was a privilege to be able to thank these heroes for their service and witness firsthand the warm welcome they received upon their arrival to the U.S. Capitol. At the beginning of this month, it was announced that Honor Flights would reconvene nationally, which is much-anticipated and welcomed news, and I look forward to continue hosting more. We are fortunate to have so many veterans – and the guardians who regularly support Honor Flights – in our community. May God bless our veterans."
To top off the capital visit, the group was able to deliver a wreath during the changing of the guard ceremony at the Arlington National Cemetery.
And as the Honor Flight convoy was ready to leave, a group of students visiting surprised everyone with a special goodbye by singing "God Bless America/"