WASHINGTON — It's the first day of the Honor Flight 2022 and 85 veterans flew from San Diego to Washington D.C.
CBS 8 photojournalist Scott Hall and I are the only television crew from San Diego taking the three-day trip.
The trip started bright and early at Lindbergh Field. Once the veterans reached flying altitude, it was time for "Mail Call'.
The Honor Flight staff delivered 4,000 letters to the veterans from loved ones and strangers thanking them for their service and sacrifice to the country.
"Thank you for your time, bravery and service," read Army pilot Dudley Gladding. He is 101 years old and the oldest veteran taking the Honor Flight. I had 40 missions over the Philippines," said Gladding.
Navy Corpsman Annine Jack is 87 and the only woman taking the Honor flight. "Thank you for your service and for our freedom," read Jack. "This whole thing has been surreal, and I would not have missed it for the world."
"This note is about you and your service and how proud I am of you," read Jack Gauthier. The Navy servicemember survived Vietnam and now fights terminal cancer. "I love everybody, and I plan to stick around as long as I can, I want more memories," said Gauthier.
The last time these veterans shared a flight like this heading east, they were about fight for our country in World War II.
Think about waking up every day of your life with freedom, then think about thanking the veterans who fought for our country.
The purpose of Honor Flight is to usher these heroes to Washington DC. The mission of Honor Flight is to celebrate America's veterans by inviting them to share in a day of honor at our nation's memorials. The Honor Flight Network is currently serving veterans from the WWII, Korean War and Vietnam War eras.
The three-day trip starts with the tradition of Mail Call at 40,000 feet. This year, the veterans received thousands of letters. Some from family members. Some from students. But every letter came from Americans, thanking the veterans for their service.
This trip costs a quarter of million dollars to organize, but whatever portion of that expense the veterans could have owed was paid in full by their service.
Participation in an Honor Flight trip gives veterans the opportunity to share this momentous occasion with other comrades, to remember friends and comrades lost.
The Honor Flight Network was formed in 2005 by Jeff Miller and Earl Morse. While originally focused on honoring our nation's World War II veterans, the Honor Flight Network now also honors those who served in the Korean War, Vietnam War, intermediary operations, and in special cases of terminal illness or injury, veterans from more recent service eras. Since its formation in 2005, the Honor Flight Network has taken more than 245,000 veterans to Washington D.C.
WATCH RELATED: Jeff Zevely previews the Honor Flight to Washington D.C. he is taking part in this weekend