WASHINGTON D.C. (KRNV & MyNews4.com) -- It's a war that claimed the lives of over 400,000 of America's "Greatest Generation." News 4 accompanied local veterans and documented their trip to the World War II Memorial on the Honor Flight.
"It's a funny thing; it's like coming home," says World War II veteran Don Kaplan, who served in the Army Air Corps. "When I saw the actors out in front, I thought I had stepped back 60 years. It's a very emotional time."
The National World War II Memorial stands in the middle of the National Mall in Washington D.C, halfway between the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument. For decades, local warriors saw their sacrifices go unrecognized. In 1987, legislation was introduced to build the memorial, but it was shot down in three separate sessions. In 1993, the project was finally approved and ground was broken in September of 2001 after much struggle. In April of 2004, the structure was completed, and now more than four million people visit it every single year.
It took 17,000 pieces of precision cut granite to make this memorial in Washington D.C. Surrounding the memorial are 56 columns for the 56 states and territories affected in World War II. At both ends are the Pacific and Atlantic columns. The towers represent the two theaters of combat that these men and women fought in to defend our freedom.
"It is impressive," says World War II veteran Bud Cutler, who served on the USS Eaton. "Just think of the work that went into this, too. It's gorgeous. It's heartwarming is what it is."
Andy Swall, who was a Seabee in World War II, says he was delighted to see so many younger people voicing their gratitude. "There are several young people who just stopped just a few minutes ago, expressing their thanks for our serving," Swall says. "I am so glad it made what we did worthwhile."
When asked what the trip meant to him, veteran Lynn Labrum responded, "It has meant that World War II has finally been remembered."