(HIAWATHA, Kan.)— When Vietnam veterans returned to the states from war nearly 50 years ago, they weren't met with much fanfare. In fact, many Americans ignored or resented those who returned home from combat.
Parades were scarce for those returning home, but fast forward to Tuesday night in Hiawatha, Kan. and about a dozen Vietnam veterans finally received the parade—but it was a send-off parade.
"They earned the honor and they deserve the honor," Vietnam Marine veteran Joe Benson said.
Benson and about a dozen veterans and their guests left Hiawatha Tuesday night to head to Kansas City for their Honor Flight to Washington D.C.
The Honor Flight Network aims to take America's veterans and fly them to Washington D.C. to visit and reflect at their memorials and it took a conversation between Benson and Honor Flight KC board member to get the ball rolling on this trip.
"My response to that was as a Vietnam veteran, I'm interested in any benefit for any veteran and I got a comment back from the Honor Flight Network, one of the board members, inviting me to come on a flight," Benson said.
Benson, though, wasn't going alone.
"I said I'd love to go, what about if I bring a group of people," Benson said.
Once in D.C. Wednesday, those veterans who served and protected the country get a chance to see the memorials built in their honor. For those Vietnam veterans, there's a different feeling when arriving in the Nation's Capitol.
"We still remember them, so going to Washington and specifically for us, since we're Vietnam vets, The Wall means a great deal to us," Vietnam Army veteran Bob Sines said.
Benson and Sines work with several organizations in the community—trying to find new ways to give back and help their fellow veterans.
And when they left Hiawatha Tuesday, seeing the number of people waving the United States flag or saying "thank you", it brought a lot of emotion to those Vietnam veterans, who didn't get that when they returned from combat.
"It's wonderful that people have started to say "thank you for your service" and begun to say "welcome home," Benson said.
The Honor Flight will return to KCI Airport around 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in Terminal C.