DENVER — High Plains Honor Flight sent its very first flight of 120 veterans to Washington D.C. Sunday morning.
Honor Flight Network is a non-profit organization created solely to honor America's veterans from the Vietnam War, Korean War and World War II. Its mission is to give those men and women who served an all-expense-paid trip to Washington D.C. to see the memorials built in their honor.
Chris Petroff, a Vietnam War Vet who served in 1969 to 1970, is one of those veterans.
"You know, it’s hard to explain," Petroff said when asked how he felt. "I actually had tears coming through the line. I didn’t think I would react that way."
"The years when we came home – in my case, I came back to a small town, which was fairly supportive, but we didn’t talk about any of it," Petroff said. "In fact, my wife was in college actually protesting the Vietnam War before we met. It was a whole different environment back then."
The celebration that greeted Petroff Sunday morning at a private hangar southeast of DIA was much different than his experience 50 years ago.
"That’s what’s really kind of emotional," Petroff said, holding back tears. "I mean, that never happened. So, to actually be welcomed, it's kind of a unique experience. I appreciate it, I really do."
Aboard Sunday's flight were five WWII vets, 22 Korean War vets and 93 Vietnam War Vets, including two women. The 120 veterans from across Northern Colorado will see the war memorials Monday, many for the first time.
The High Plains Honor Flight chapter collected donations for almost a year to afford the $16,000 trip. They hope to take off again with more veterans this time next year.
If you'd like to get involved — volunteer or donate — visit the High Plains Honor Flight website.
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