TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - The Honor Flight touched down in southern Arizona Monday night, May 14, as veterans were welcomed with a greeting worthy of their many years of service.
Hundreds of community members, family members, and active duty service members, stood in lines inside the Tucson International Airport, as 23 veterans were led through the procession.
Jim Kirk was among the crowd inside the airport. He waited patiently for the group to return, having almost gone on the trip himself.
"We came down to the meeting about going. She said, 'I'm going. You're not going. I need to go with my dad,'" Jim said, talking about the decision by his wife, Sarah.
So instead, it was Sarah Kirk who was among the 23 Guardians who took these Veterans on the journey, with her father by her side.
U.S. Navy Veteran Donald Robinson was saluted for his service, cheered jubilantly as he made his way through the B Concourse and into the Tucson International Airport Gallery.
His daughter, on his arm, looked on in awe.
"My dad is my hero. He's always been my hero," Sarah Kirk said. "I just realized this is a once in a lifetime opportunity not just to honor him but to share it with him and see this outpouring of people that realize freedom isn't free. It costs. I'm just grateful I was there."
The trip, led by Honor Flight of Southern Arizona, was free for the Veterans. The volunteers and Guardians paid their own way.
The group left Saturday morning, May 12, for Washington, D.C. The free trip allows Veterans to visit their memorials in the nation's capital. This was the 24th trip Honor Flight of Southern Arizona has organized, made up of World War II and Korean War Veterans.
The organization's next trip is scheduled tentatively for September 2018, according to their website.
They operate completely on donations.
Having not been back to Washington, D.C. in about 50 years, Robinson relished the opportunity.
"It went really fast," he said. "Everyone was really amazingly friendly. All of the people were really great."
Robinson's daughter wasn't going to miss it, while Jim Kirk was glad he did.
"This is a pretty big deal. Her dad is 88 years old," he said. "So it's an opportunity you don't want to pass up."