It's estimated nearly 1,000 U.S. World War II veterans die everyday, taking their stories to the grave.
In September, the very first U.P. Honor Flight took off from Escanaba. It's a nonprofit trip, funded entirely by donations, that transports veterans free of charge to Washington, D.C. to finally see their war memorials. TV6 was able to go along for the flight, and as Veteran's Day draws closer, we'll be featuring our local heroes in a special series.
It's been more than 65 years since the war ended. Old photos in history books or black and white films remain the only images most of us have of a heroic, yet nightmarish, time in history.
But for a group that's dwindling in numbers each day, the memories, the stories and the images are much more real.
"There's worse things then being shot at; it's seeing the people suffering, seeing all the damage, seeing old people and kids laying in street burned and dying, you never forget that," says veteran Walter "Whitey" Jensen.
"I was with the B29s in India. We had four bases, we'd fly down, bomb Japan, " says veteran Peter Gorsche. "We belonged to the government, and we wanted to do the best for our country. No if, ands or buts, you do it."
They came a long way, and with the U.P. Honor Flight, 80 veterans were able to come just a little farther to the nation's capital decades later to remember and say goodbye.
"After you go by the cemetery and see all the bodies, it's overwhelming," says veteran Francis Cannon. "To see all the cemetery plots, crosses."
It's a farewell that's been a long time coming for veterans like Bob Kuster, who served in three different military battles from WWII to Korea and Desert Storm. The Honor Flight was the only way he was able to finally see his memorials.
"It won't be forgotten, that's for sure," says Kuster. "It's heart rendering."
They're pillars of bravery, strength and real patriotism. Many couldn't escape tears after a simple 'thank you' and hug from friends, family and even strangers...the very people they gave it all for.
"Thinking of yourself isn't the biggest thing," Jensen says. "That isn't what I remember; I think of the suffering of other people, the ones that have no way of defending themselves."
Our Honor Flight series will continue Thursday, when we'll take a look at three female veterans that were able to make the trip.