A trip down memory lane – 45th Space Wing visits with Honor Flight veterans

Dick Hernandez, a Korean War veteran, speaks to a Airman, March 17, 2018 at Wickham Park Senior Center, in Melbourne, Fla. Veterans on the Honor Flight see monuments commemorating their sacrifices to our country, such as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and Korean, Vietnam and World War II memorials.

Dick Hernandez, a Korean War veteran, speaks to a Airman, March 17, 2018 at Wickham Park Senior Center, in Melbourne, Fla. Veterans on the Honor Flight see monuments commemorating their sacrifices to our country, such as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and Korean, Vietnam and World War II memorials.

Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Bill Welser, president of Space Coast Honor Flight, address veterans, March 17, 2018 at Wickham Park Senior Center, in Melbourne Fla. Honor Flight, a non-profit organization, was started in 2005 and they provide an opportunity for veterans of all branches of service, from throughout the country, to visit and reflect on the memorials in Washington D.C.

Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Bill Welser, president of Space Coast Honor Flight, address veterans, March 17, 2018 at Wickham Park Senior Center, in Melbourne Fla. Honor Flight, a non-profit organization, was started in 2005 and they provide an opportunity for veterans of all branches of service, from throughout the country, to visit and reflect on the memorials in Washington D.C.

Phillip "Phil" Rosaci, United States Navy veteran, celebrates during the Honor Flight ceremony, March 17, 2018 at Wickham Park Senior Center in Melbourne, Fla. Rosaci served as a Deck Hand on the USS Leyte and turns 87 years old this March.

Phillip "Phil" Rosaci, United States Navy veteran, celebrates during the Honor Flight ceremony, March 17, 2018 at Wickham Park Senior Center in Melbourne, Fla. Rosaci served as a Deck Hand on the USS Leyte and turns 87 years old this March.

Airmen helps veteran move through a tunnel of sabers, March 17, 2018 at Wickham Park Senior Center in Melbourne, Fla. Honor Flight veterans move through a saber arch before traveling to Washington D.C.

Airmen helps Ross Dixon, United States Army Air Corps veteran, move through a tunnel of sabers, March 17, 2018 at Wickham Park Senior Center in Melbourne, Fla. Honor Flight veterans move through a saber arch before traveling to Washington D.C.

MELBOURNE, Fla. -- Usually the Wickham Park Senior Center is filled with men and women playing bingo. However, at 1:30 a.m. on Saturday, it was a very different picture as military members from the Space Coast area gathered to honor 25 local veterans embarking on an “Honor Flight” trip to Washington D.C. later that morning.

Although everyone there is typically asleep at that time, there was a smile on everyone’s face as the veterans walked through a veritable tunnel of sabers. An entire audience of friends, family, fellow veterans and Airmen from the 45th Space Wing were there to show their appreciation.

“Honor Flight is important for our veterans and their families because it gives them a chance to tell their amazing stories, sometimes for the very first time," said Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Bill Welser, president of Space Coast Honor Flight. “Our staff and volunteers are so deeply committed because it honors the service of those who made possible the freedoms we all enjoy today!”

Honor Flight, a non-profit organization, was started in 2005. They provide an opportunity for veterans of all branches of service, from throughout the country, to visit and reflect on the memorials in Washington D.C. Veterans see monuments commemorating their sacrifices to our country, such as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and Korean, Vietnam and World War II memorials.

Airmen from the 45th Space Wing understand veterans not only deserve to see the way their impact is memorialized, but to understand our country still supports and honors them.

“Our mission wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the selflessness and courage of these veterans,” said Col. Gigi A. Simko, 45th Medical Group commander. “These heroes made sacrifices for the freedoms we have today, and our wing is grateful for the opportunity to give them a proper sendoff as a way of thanks.”

Witnessing the arrival and departure of Honor Flight was a humbling experience not only for the audience at Wickham, but for the veterans as well. Those that attended the morning’s events left with a greater perspective on duty and honor. Some tried to hide the emotions of the morning, speaking maybe even a little softer, while others visibly walked a little taller and prouder.