Some Mid-Missouri veterans will depart from Columbia early Wednesday to visit Washington, D.C. Central Missouri Honor Flight President Mary Paulsell says this is the largest-ever honor flight for her organization – 75 veterans will be visiting the national war memorials that honor them. Of those going, five are Korean War veterans and 70 are Vietnam War veterans.

“For us, it’s really a life-changing experience that we see in them and that’s a great deal more than just a ticket to Washington,” says Paulsell. “It energizes them and makes them feel, rightfully so, very proud of their service.”

She says these trips have been a life changing experience for many of America’s heroes.

“This is much more than just visiting the memorials of granite and marble. It’s something that resonates for them deep in their soul because for many of them, their military experience was a defining experience of their lives,” says Paulsell.

Paulsell says nearly every trip includes veterans who’ve lost touch with one another.

“We always say God winked and put them together on this particular day. We’ve had World War Two veterans find each other after decades,” said Paulsell. “A couple were living within a block or two of one another in Moberly. They went to the same church but they went to different services. They just had never encountered one another. That’s kind of miraculous when that happens. We just shake our heads. A couple of them have told us that they go to dinner every Friday night now.”

Paulsell says the welcome home ceremony is one of the most popular parts of the trip for these veterans.

“They always say the memorials were very nice, but the people along the way who thanked us, stopped us, shook our hands and waved flags is very meaningful to them,” says Paulsell.

Missourians are encouraged to attend the welcome home ceremony at Columbia’s Courtyard Marriott Wednesday at 10 p.m.

About 600 Mid-Missouri veterans are on a waiting list to go on an honor flight.  Each honor flight costs about $65,000 and is funded solely through donations.

Hear the full interview with Mary Paulsell: