A reverent quiet fell over the crowd gathered at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier located at Arlington National Cemetery.
The day has cooled significantly, making the 96 Honor Flight Veterans feel that much more comfortable while watching the changing of the guard and the laying of the wreath ceremonies.
Prior to traveling by bus to Arlington National Cemetery, the buses made a brief stop at Marine Corps War Memorial.
Before that, everyone toured the Vietnam and Korean memorials.
Scoop Owsley, who served in World War II and Korea, said the life-sized, life-like statues of American soldiers patrolling in Korea wearing ponchos and carrying rifles are "very realistic."
The Honor Flight group reached the Korean and Vietnam memorials about 2 p.m. That's approximately 2 hours after everyone stepped off the buses for a tour of the National World War II Monument.
When Talbotton, Ga. resident and veteran Lee Culpepper stepped off his bus at the WWII memorial, his children and grandchildren awaited. It was an amazing surprise, Culpepper said, one that brought tears to the grateful former Navy serviceman's eyes.
The group saw Congressman Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA) present an American flag to the West Georgia Honor Flight organizers. Retired U.S. Sen. Bob Dole stopped by to talk with and shake hands with members of the group.
Our next stop: Arlington National Cemetery.
After an approximately 1 1/2 hour flight from Columbus the chartered plane responsible for carrying 96 veterans to Washington, DC, for a day of sightseeing touched down at Baltimore-Washington Airport (BWI).
On the flight up to Maryland, the veterans, their guardians, a handful of medical personnel and the media were treated to a movie depicting the history of the building of the World War II Monument.
Dewey McKenzie, an Honor Flight veteran, was shocked by the send-off his group received in Columbus.
"I really wasn't expecting all the to-do they had for us," McKenzie said. "It was quite impressive."
McKenzie said he was most looking forward to seeing the National World War II Monument. Tom Woosley echoed his sentiment.
"I'm just looking forward to a great day," Woosley said. "Seeing all the memorials. It couldn't be better."
The first thing the veterans saw when they stepped onto the jetway leading to the airport terminal in Maryland were uniformed service members, USO volunteers, BWI staff and airport fire and EMS personnel. They lined the carpeted plank, shaking hands with each man and woman that came their way.
This lively group of World War II veterans were then greeted with enthusiastic applause, hugs, kisses and cheers from several members of the airport staff as well as USO volunteers.
Julie Rasch, one such USO volunteer, shook the hand of pretty much every veteran and guardian that stepped off the plane. Looking each in the eyes, she said, "Thank you for your service. You're a hero." Once in DC, the veterans will tour the monument built in their honor, the World War II Memorial, as well as the Korean War Veterans Memorial, Arlington National Cemetery and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial..
We're doing this for the veterans, those men and, yes women too, who proudly and selflessly served their country during the Second World War. Some of them have never seen Washington, DC. Others have been, but years ago. Most, if not all, have never visited the memorial built in their honor, the National World War II Monument.
The Ledger-Enquirer decided to send myself, Lily Gordon and Joe on this important journey.
Please stay with us at www.ledger-enquirer.com throughout the day for periodic updates and pictures.