Land of Lincoln Honor Flight Returns

By WEEK Reporter

April 8, 2011 Updated Apr 8, 2011 at 9:14 PM CDT

World War II veterans from across Illinois returned from the Land Of Lincoln Honor Flight Tuesday after spending a day seeing the war memorials of Washington DC.

We heard from a vet on Sunday as he prepared for his first trip to the nation's capitol. He tells us how the journey went above and beyond his expectations.

"This was really something to write home about." said Les Casali.

When we last spoke with Les Casali, he was looking forward to visiting Washington DC. Now he says the experience was so much more than he could have expected.

"That was really something."
"Yeah."

John Dust went on the trip with Casali and 87 other World War II veterans from Illinois as an independent guardian. He feels a personal connection to the memorials. His father served in the war, and his only uncle died while serving in Korea.

"This is a way for me to take other World War II veterans and then we'll shortly start taking Korean veterans to see their memorial." said Dust.

The Land of Lincoln Honor Flight is paid for by donations and operates out of the private sector. It allows an expense free, one day trip for veterans to see the World War II memorial, Arlington National Cemetery, and even some in flight surprises to remind the vets of their happier moments away from home.

"That was the best part of anything that happened to us during the war, was mail call." said Casali.

"You could see them tearing up a little bit when they opened those bags and got letters." said Dust

"I was back twenty years old. (laughs) I was back." said Casali.

For Casali, the trip's highlights were reminders of the close order drills, like the changing of the guards. And he says nothing can explain the emotions of paying respect to more than 300,000 war heroes from every American war.

Les Casali said, "Arlington Cemetery just absolutely blew my mind. You stand at that memorial and think of the thousands of men and women that got killed. It really makes you think that you were one of the lucky ones that came home."

As a guardian, Dust says hearing the stories of triumph and tribulation from 88 retired servicemen is reason enough to return.

Dust said, "It was very humbling. It was an honor to serve them. This was their one last flight with honor as we call it."

"It was far beyond my expectations, and I thank all of the people that were involved. I will remember that the rest of my life, however long it is." said Casali

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