Nightly News   |  May 27, 2013

Organization transports aging vets to memorials

Trips organized by the Honor Flight Network gives aging vets the opportunity to visit and reflect at the memorials for the wars they fought in. NBC’s Jack Jacobs reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> memorial day is about a high honor for some of our nation's aging veterans, and how one special organization is making a difference for some of the greatest generation . tonight our military analyst retired army colonel jack jacobs , himself a recipient of the medal of honor , has our report with a group of vets from dayton, ohio.

>> reporter: 35 veterans bound for the nation's capital. most of them for the very first time.

>> you want to talk about old times?

>> yeah!

>> reporter: this trip is one of many organized by the honor flight network every year. sending more than 10,000 older veteranses to the washington memorials honoring their service and their sacrifice. [ applause ]

>> reporter: each is paired with a guardian and nurses are on hand.

>> ice packs, a hug, just let us know and --

>> i need one.

>> oh! [ laughter ]

>> reporter: after landing the men and women spend time at the world war ii , vietnam, and korean war memorials, sharing stories about their service.

>> prisoner of war in germany.

>> i came home from okinawa. it took me three weeks to hitchhike home.

>> it brings back memories.

>> reporter: the memories of those lost.

>> it's hard to explain. i think about all the guys that never get to see it.

>> reporter: and that uncertainty of when or if they ever return home.

>> i was married and had one little girl i had never seen. that's why i came home.

>> reporter: on this day past and present meet. for marine james roberts , seeing the iconic iwo jima memorial cast in bronze has special meaning because he was there.

>> i was within one quarter of a mile when they raised ethat flag. i was covering for the troops to protect them from the japanese so they wouldn't come in and ambush them while they were raising that up.

>> can everybody wave their right hand? for the navy guys, it's over on this side. [ laughter ]

>> reporter: years of wisdom peppered with wit.

>> you're looking good for your age.

>> so are you.

>> reporter: there is a sense of brotherhood among the men who began today's journey as strangers. remembering themselves as young men and women who set out into the unknown. for their country, risked everything.

>> talk about us being the best generation. we just did what we had to do. we weren't heroes.

>> reporter: at arlington national cemetery , the changing of the guard and, for some, the turning of the page.

>> it's been a marvelous experience. one that i will never forget.

>> it's a way to put behind you some of what you haven't yet, some of the experiences that you want to forget.

>> reporter: colonel jack jacobs , nbc news, washington.