Indy Honor Flight to mark milestone Saturday

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After nine trips taking World War II heroes to Washington, D.C., this weekend marks a milestone for Indy Honor Flight.

They'll use two planes to transport 200 veterans to see the memorial built in their honor.

"These gentlemen and women are walking history books," said Carolyn Schmidt, who volunteers with Indy Honor Flight. "It's really such an honor to be with them."

They're members of The Greatest Generation, who went to war as teenagers.

"I was two months short of 18," said WWII Navy veteran Frank Bertalon.

"At that time, you're brave and you have no have no regrets about anything," added WWII Army veteran Charlie Hallagan.

Hallagan, Bertalon and Warren Engelhardt all live at Zionsville Meadows Assisted Living. It's been a long time since they served - a lifetime, really. Frank is 90 years old, Charlie 92, and Warren - as he told us, "102 and a half!"

The memories of World War II have faded some.

"I was in France, Germany and Austria, but being a soldier's all I remember," Warren said.

But that time in battle, fighting for freedom, is still very much a part of these veterans. Frank lost his hearing in the war.

"Shell shock," he explained.

"He lost his hearing because of the war. He was a gunner on a ship in the middle of the Pacific," Schmidt said.

"We had ear protection," Frank said. "But there was an awful lot of fire."

Despite their sacrifice, the men are humble about their service. And like many of their generation, they've never seen the memorial built in their honor.

"I've read about it," Charlie said. "I actually donated to the original one when they were building it, so I'm a charter member of the World War II Memorial!"

That will all change Saturday, thanks to Indy Honor Flight. In the largest Indy Honor Flight to date, 200 veterans will be flown to Washington, D.C.

"It's exciting! I'm really excited to see it," Charlie said.

"I can tell my grandkids, my grandchildren all about it," Frank added.

"It's really an amazing time. It isn't until they get there that it hits home and once they get there, once you see their faces, it's priceless," Schmidt said.

It's also a special way to say thank you to heroes who saved the world so many years ago.

"These men really sacrificed for us," Schmidt said. "The least we can do is spend a day with them, take them to Washington, D.C. and make it a trip of a lifetime."

In addition to taking WWII veterans, for the first time, the non-profit Indy Honor Flight will be transporting 79 Korean War veterans and one man who served in the Vietnam War.

The group will leave early Saturday morning.

As always, the public is invited to welcome the veterans home on Saturday night, beginning at 8:00 p.m. at Plainfield High School. There will be a parade, including the Gordon Pipers, along with pictures, flags and plenty of patriotism, all to say thank you to these veterans.