AUSTIN, Texas (FOX 7 Austin) - 40 Central Texas veterans were given a hero's sendoff Friday morning for the trip of a lifetime: visiting the memorials in Washington D.C. built in their honor. Free of charge for the veterans.
It's what Honor Flight Austin does.
"I've been in four European tours, three Asian tours," said Vietnam Veteran Peter Luley.
Luley served in the Army from 1960 to 1990. As for Honor Flight... "To me it's great. Because the Veterans, they need this. They need to be recognized for the service that they did in Vietnam because we didn't get treated very well when we got home," Luley said.
Luley says he landed in Oakland when he got back and he needed to take a Taxi to the San Francisco airport. "When I got outside in my uniform, I didn't have a very good welcome. I was basically forced to go back inside, take my clothes off, put on civilian clothes and then get out and get a cab. That's how bad it was," Luley said.
5 decades later, that mentality is very different.
"I always say it's a 'politician's war,' I'm sorry. They had a lot to do with it. We should have never gone in in the first place. But we couldn't change it, soldiers couldn't change it. They go where they're supposed to go," Luley said.
Ted Langworthy served from '57 to '67.
"I was a Navy pilot, flew off aircraft carriers in Vietnam," Langworthy said.
Langworthy says he will see many names of friends on the Vietnam wall in D.C. "One in particular I was flying with when he was killed. That means a lot. Even though we were single-seat jets but he was right ahead of me and I saw him get hit," he said.
You might recognize Volma Overton Jr. He's an Army Veteran himself, serving from '67 to '70. But he's also part of a family of great Americans like Austin legend Richard Overton and Volma's father, Volma Overton Sr. This Honor Flight is paying special tribute to him. "Dad was drafted into the Marines back in the early '40s so he served in Korea as a Marine," Overton Jr. said.
Overton Sr. was an Austin Civil Rights leader.
Volma tells a story about what happened after his dad bought a home on the V.A. Bill.
"Found out that the developer in the neighborhood, this was back then in the Jim Crow laws, was charging the 'Negros' at the time $3,000 more than on the other side of town. So he filed a lawsuit...and made the developer sell everybody their home at $3,000 less," Overton Jr. said.
Former Austin Mayor and Vietnam Veteran Lee Leffingwell is Vice Chair of Honor Flight.
"If you know anybody who is a Veteran. Korea, World War II, Vietnam, send them our way and we'd be happy to put them on a list and take them on a flight when we can," Leffingwell said.
"It's just a thrill for these veterans to have that flight and for it not to cost them anything. Just seeing them together, talking about their experience in the military is really special," Overton Jr. said.