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Tuscaloosa Rotary Honor Flight Wednesday

Plane preparing to depart Tuscaloosa for Tuscaloosa Rotary Honor Flight Wednesday morning. (WBRC/Terri Brewer) Vietnam veteran Don Sherrod with Honor Flight guardians Mike Oakley and Audrey Vaughn. (WBRC/Terri Brewer)

TUSCALOOSA COUNTY, AL (WBRC) –

Nearly 100 Vietnam veterans are experiencing a memorable day Wednesday in Washington D.C., on board the Tuscaloosa Rotary Honor Flight.

Honor Flight takes veterans on a day trip, at no cost to the veterans, to visit the war memorials dedicated to their service. Although this is the eighth Tuscaloosa Rotary Honor Flight, this is the first one to include Vietnam veterans. Previous flights have been for World War II and Korean War veterans.

The day can be very emotional for the veterans. Tuscaloosa Rotary Honor Flight organizers believe that will be the case for many of the Vietnam veterans. The warm reception they will receive on the Honor Flight will be much different than what many of the veterans experienced when they returned home from their service.

“People from all over the country will come up and thank them for their service to our country,” Tuscaloosa Rotary Honor Flight Chairman Jordan Plaster said. “We think that’s very important for closure, and to all be together, to see this together.”

As they were leaving Tuscaloosa Wednesday morning, the veterans discussed the emotions of this day and their appreciation for the trip.

“That was a difficult time, it really was,” veteran Stephen May said of his return from Vietnam. “I still get emotional. When I got off the plane in California, it was not a welcoming scene at all.”

“It’s a brotherhood between Vietnam veterans,” veteran Don Sherrod said. “It always has been and I’m just proud to be able to go on a trip like this.”

Veteran Mike Oakley, who served after the Vietnam era, is serving as a guardian on the Honor Flight. Guardians are volunteers who travel alongside the veterans. Oakley said it has always been important to him to show respect and appreciation to Vietnam veterans.

"They were just doing their jobs," Oakley said. "Unpopular conflict or not, they were just doing their job, and answering the call."

The public is invited to welcome home the veterans at a celebration Wednesday night at Hawthorne Global Aviation, which was previously known as Bama Air. Honor Flight organizers ask supporters to gather at 7:30 p.m., ahead of the flight’s estimated 8:30 p.m. arrival in Tuscaloosa.

For more details about the Rotary Club of Tuscaloosa’s honor flight, check out the following website: http://www.rotarytuscaloosa.com/about-us/honor-flight

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