Honor Flight Austin takes veterans on Independence Day trip to DC

Austin Bergstrom is a busy place.  But the hustle and bustle of international flight came to a halt on this Fourth of July morning. 

Travelers stopped in their tracks to pay respects to those who helped make our country what it is today.
Allen Bergeron is chairman of Honor Flight Austin. 

The non-profit's mission is to get as many veterans as possible to the Nation’s Capital to visit the monuments built in their honor.  Free of charge for the veterans.  Honor Flight gives priority to World War II followed by Korea and Vietnam.

"That's the urgency now to find as many World War II vets as we can.  Losing them about 400 per day," Bergeron said. 

Bergeron said when Honor Flight Austin started several years ago there were hundreds and hundreds of WWII veterans on the waiting list.  He said on this flight, there are only about 13.

"It's just hard to find.  Either we've taken them already, or they're just too fragile to fly or they've passed away," Bergeron said.

And this is the first ever Independence Day Honor Flight.

"We've never done this before, it's a first.  It's an honor for us to do this," Bergeron said.

The group will have police escorts take to them to the big D.C. fireworks show and they'll tour the monuments on the 5th.  For some, it's not their first time to see the names of the fallen in D.C.

"Breathtaking, emotional," said Korean War veteran Jack Ryle. 

Frank Serpas is a 92-year-old WWII veteran who lives in Sunrise Beach, Texas.

"Am I excited?  You can't imagine how excited I am.  I just couldn't wait," Serpas said.

His son is a Vietnam vet who recently flew on Honor Flight.  He helped him sign up.

"This flight is so important to me because I've always felt why was I able to come home and so many young fellows like myself. Lord knows what they had have been in their lifetime doctors, lawyers," Serpas said.

"For some of our WWII vets, when you talk about a life-changing moment, when they're in their last chapter of their lives and sometimes in their last paragraph. and yet they experience something in their 90's and 100’s that changes their lives," Bergeron said.

Since the first Honor Flight, the non-profit has taken about 2,000 veterans to D.C.  Most of them have been WWII veterans.
They do about 10 flights a year and they're already planning for 2018.