Austin veterans head to D.C. to visit war memorials

There was a long overdue proper send off at the Austin airport Friday morning as more than 100 veterans took off for Washington, D.C. It was part of Honor Flight Austin and was extra special because it was the largest group to go so far and they all served in the Vietnam War.

The vets were met with cheers, smiles, waves, some tears, and many thank yous.

“It's very nice to get recognized because we did not get recognition in the 1970s and 60s,” said veteran Dulen Lee. Lee was one of the many who served in the Vietnam War, considered one of the most controversial wars. Many were not well received when they made their way back home.

“People stayed away from you or insulted you one of the two,” he said.

Lee is part of the group from the Austin area that will be visiting at our Nation’s Capital. But there's one memorial for them in particular, that has special meaning, the one built in their honor.

“This is a very powerful experience that these Vietnam veterans are about to have.” Alan Bergeron is the Chairman for Honor Flight Austin. He said they took a small group of Vietnam vets last year to "The Vietnam Wall" in D.C. He said based on that experience, when he saw more than 100 Central Texas Vietnam war vets on the waiting list to go, he had to take them, and all together.

“When we saw what happened with these veterans when they saw the wall and when they etched their buddies name off the wall, it was unbelievable, it was a very powerful and painful but a healing experience.”

Known as the wall that heals, the memorial includes the names of more than 58,000 service men and women who gave their lives in service in the Vietnam conflict, something very personal for many of these vets.

Calvin Dockey is a Vietnam veteran, “Especially on the Vietnam Wall and you know somebody. I've got names I want to look up,” he said. “I have one friends name that I worked with, his name is on the wall and I always go there and stop by there and say hi,” Lee said.

“It's a chance to go and see the wall and more importantly to see people’s names on that wall that they served with or family members, or friends and pay their respects,” said Ken Wallingford a veteran who was traveling with the Honor Flight Austin group.