MENDOTA HEIGHTS, Minn. — Honor Flights are back after being put on pause during the pandemic.
On Monday, 80 local vets will fly out to Washington D.C. to see the memorials built in their honor.
It’s the first Honor Flight in nearly three years.
The flight will leave MSP at 5:00 a.m. Monday and will come back later that same night.
The flight will be filled with Vietnam and Korean war veterans and a handful of WWII veterans who are still with us.
Charles Stone is one of them.
"For my grandfather to still be around after everything he's gone through, it’s just incredible,” grandson Jason Stone says.
Charles served in the Army during WWII.
He was stationed in the Pacific as part of the China Burma India Theater.
Charles’s memory isn’t what it used to be, but he still remembers some things like they just happened yesterday.
He still remembers exactly how many days he spent overseas.
"I was there three years, three months, six days,” Charles says.
He also remembers how far he traveled once he landed in Asia — 1,836 miles — and even an exciting story about a tiger.
Charles says villagers in his area were worried about a local tiger that was known for attacking people, so he and a few friends decided to help them out. Charles recalls they all got into a jeep one night and started driving around the jungle. Suddenly, he said, they noticed a tiger run out in front of their jeep.
He said he and his friends jumped out at the same time and started firing into the jungle to try and hit the tiger, but during the commotion, everyone forgot the jeep was still running, and it ended up crashing into a swamp and got stuck.
Charles says he and his friends then had to take the long walk back to the village at night, while a hungry tiger was possibly waiting in the trees nearby.
That's just one of countless stories Charles still remembers to this day.
Now, he’ll have another story to tell after he and his grandson get back from Washington D.C. next week.
"It's just incredible to go as his guardian. You know, growing up, he was kind of my guardian,” Jason says.
Jason and his grandfather signed up for Honor Flight two years ago, but COVID canceled it.
"It was definitely sad because we were excited about it and I didn't think we would have this opportunity,” Jason says.
At his grandfather's age, Jason didn't think they'd get another chance, but a few months ago, they finally got the call that Honor Flight was back on.
"To be able to spend that time with your grandfather is priceless,” Jason says.
The timing is perfect for Charles. One week after he gets back, he'll celebrate his 100th birthday — a milestone he never expected to see.
"Never, never, never; 70, 80 maybe? Maybe 85, but 100? I'm here,” Charles says.
Here at 100, Charles is one of the few WWII veterans we have left who's about to see the memorials built in his honor.
"Every day is a blessing and so it's exciting that he's around and we get to see this,” Jason says.
Honor Flight organizers are already making plans for their next Honor Flight, which is scheduled for September 2023.
If you’d like to learn more about Honor Flight, click here.
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