The 18th Freedom Honor Flight out of La Crosse took about 90 veterans to Washington D.C. and back all in one day Saturday to give them a chance to see memorials in their honor. Vets say it's a trip they won't soon forget.
"My dad gave me a call (to ask if I'd go with him). I was so proud and so happy,” Rodney Lundell, son of a veteran Wayne Lundell, said. “I said, ‘Yes, I definitely want to do this.’"
Some days make it worth getting up before the sun.
"I tell you, it's one of the best things that'll probably be in my life,” Rod Lundell said. "It'll be just like that MasterCard commercial. Priceless!"
The trip took former Marine and Korean War vet Wayne Lundell back to a place he used to be stationed: Washington, D.C.
"It'll be different because I was there in the forties,” he said.
Right out of the gates, it was clear to the veterans that this is no ordinary day trip as dozens greeted them waving flags.
"People are all so welcoming,” World War II nurse LaVerne Ness said. “I mean, little kids along the street and everything. It's just awesome."
The first stop was the World War II memorial, one that many vets experienced for the first time.
LaVerne Ness was one of the few women on the journey.
“Well, you get a lot of attention,” she said.
At first she wasn't sure she'd belong.
"I didn’t feel since I didn't get overseas ... I didn't feel I should be coming,” Ness said.
Her son Jeff Ness thinks otherwise.
"When you think about the sacrifices they made and how they put their lives on hold, I hope my generation and the generations, my kids and grand-kids all realize how important that was, to the world actually,” he said.
LaVerne Ness says the trip reminds her she does deserve to be among the ranks.
"Yeah it does,” she said. “It does. That’s for sure."
As a Korean War vet, Wayne Lundell was looking forward to the Korean War memorial the most.
"I'll tell you what, this is well worth it just to see this,” Wayne said. “You know. Man oh man oh man it is beautiful."
“My dad really didn’t talk too much about the war and that,” Rod Lundell said. “Because there are bad memories."
But, some of the ice is started to chip as they talked about Wayne’s time in the war.
Jeff says his mother isn't one to bring up memories from the war, either.
"Yeah it's pretty rare,” he said.
"I guess we were so busy back then that we really didn’t think about it too much,” LaVerne said. “And now we have a lot of time to reflect on what we really went through."
While on the trip, some of those floodgates to conversation opened up.
"It's therapeutic, it really is,” Jeff said. “It's good for her, good for me too."
This day is very much about the veterans, but between the smiles and the laughs, it's also very much about strengthening relationships across generations.