Clearwater, Florida -- Honor Flight of West Central Florida is marking its 7th journey today from St. Petersburg to the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C..
Seventy-seven WWII veterans from the Tampa Bay area are on this once in a lifetime journey to see the memorial for the first time.
"It gets to me sometimes," said Abner Aster, Jr. as tears welled up in hiseyes.
TheWWII Air Force veteran is one of the only surviving WWII fighter aces. As he looked across the room at St. Petersburg/Clearwater International he said, "It means a lot because they haven't forgotten who we are. To me, that's important."
The Honor Flight of West Central Florida is covering the costs of the flight for the veterans. Their guardians pay their own way at $400, but even they cannot put a price tag on the experience.
Carlos Ramirez brought his father, Air Force Col. Kenneth Davey who is 98 years old.
"They are amazing, we owe a lot to them. It's a great honor to be here," said Ramirez.
His father proudly wore his 'B-17 Flying Fortress' hat that was made just for him. In his lap, he clutched the Honor Flight hat he was given.
"I have a collection of 35 hats, so I made a book about them. Each one tells a story and now I've got a new story to tell, you see," said the 98-year-old, pointing to the Honor Flight hat.
"Time is of the essence, " said James Haake, President of Honor Flight of West Central Florida.
As of this flight, the organization has flown 466 local World War II veterans to the nation's capital to see the memorial built for them.
"16 million Americans fought. There are less than 1.2 left nationally. We have less than 28,000 in the eight counties we control in the Tampa Bay area. We need to do this," saidHaake, "They saved the world, but sooner or later they will pass away."
If you want to support Honor Flight of West Central Florida or knowa veteran who would like to go, click here.
The group will return to the St. Petersburg/Clearwater International Airport at 8:30 tonight. They will be greeted with a party in their honor.You are encouraged to get to the airport by 8:15 p.m. to welcome them back.