WASHINGTON, D.C. The National World War II monument in Washington D.C. is America's thank you set in stone.
94 World War Two veterans from Louisiana were visibly moved as they took in the tribute to those who served and those who died.
'I just noticed the Battle of the Bulge was listed here, embossed in the stone, and I was in the Battle of the Bulge,' said Veteran Herbert Stone, a New Orleans residnt.
'It took a long time for them to build, but it is a great thing that they did,' said Veteran Fred Glassman, a Metairie resident.
Glassman said the thoughts of his 'buddies' that were killed during the war raced through his mind as he visited the monument.
'I'm stunned,' said Veteran Ross Gamble, an Algiers resident. 'I really don't know how to react to this.'
It was a high point of a long day that started when they gathered at Armstrong Airport before dawn, as excited as teenagers.
'Most of us can't afford to go on trips and what have you,' said one veteran.
They got to share searing experiences with others who truly understood.
'When we went to the front lines, what do you think they do? They made a scout out of me because I was the smallest one, I'd be hard to see,' said one veteran.
Another veteran said, 'We was the first one to ever see action, the first one to ever sink a sub.'
Their trip to Washington was made possible by volunteers who formed Louisiana Honor Air.
'For me it's payback time, because I saw them as they came as GIs, and I don't see them as they are now, I see them as they were,' said Sallie Varrelman, Louisiana Honor Air coordinator.
They were welcomed as heroes in Washington by cheering U.S. Airways employees and passengers who interrupted other flights to applaud the stunned veterans.
But for many it was a day of strong emotions. To them, the monuments were more than markers.
At Arlington National Cemetery, they stood among the rows of headstones and thought of friends.
'So sad,' said one woman, near tears. 'I'm thinking about all those Marines.'))
And helping place a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier brought tears to the eyes of a D-Day veteran who was awarded a Bronze Star, Silver Star and Purple Heart.
'Because I'm so emotional. I was on the front lines for over a year,' said Veteran Wallace Yip, a Metairie resident.
And their guide was Tomb Honor Guard member Sgt. Benton Thames of Denham Springs, Louisiana, who took the veterans into the private Guards Assembly area and escorted them all day.
'Not only just because they're from Louisiana, but to have World War II veterans come here, and see them pay their respects, and see what it means to them, to see their fallen brothers in the cemetery,' Thames said.
Eyewitness News accompanied Louisiana Honor Air on a flight to Washington last year, and nobody knew what would happen as a result of that one story. It was shown to people across Louisiana, and their response and donations literally paid for another flight to Washington.
'We raised somewhere between $71,000 and $75,000 basically one flight,' said Henry Mouton, of Louisiana Honor Air.
For T.D. Smith, the founder of Louisiana Honor Air, it was an exhausting day, but he said this is the most rewarding thing he has ever done.
'I see old men in the morning, a lot of them doing what we call the 'old man shuffle,' and I watch them as the day progresses, and I see in so many cases, the years just fall away,' Smith said.
And when they returned to New Orleans, there was one more surprise: a cheering welcome back that included Congressman Joseph Cao and City Council Vice-President Jackie Clarkson, as well as admiral who danced.
'It's so wonderful to thank them for what they sacrificed for us,' said Rear Admiral Mary Landry with the U.S. Coast Guard.
They received no official welcome home at the end of World War II, but in this way, members of a grateful nation said thanks.
Louisiana Honor Air organizers are now raising funds and signing up veterans for one final flight next April. For details, click here.