WASHINGTON D.C.–The Greater Peoria Honor Flight can be seen as the trip of a lifetime.
A time where veterans are able to see the memorials in Washington D.C. and reminisce on their times serving in the military.
For Kenneth Klein and Donald Lewis, the Vietnam Memorial Wall reminded them how blessed they are, to be alive today.
“Just the memory of those lost in my platoon. Like I said, Corporal Maxim won the Medal of Honor. If it weren’t for Corporal Maxim, Don Lewis wouldn’t be here,” said Donald Lewis who served in the Vietnam War in the Marine Corps.
“I know too many names on that wall. Some from high school, but four of them that I indicated was from a squad that I was in. They had a big part of my life when I was in country,” said Kenneth Klein who served in the Navy as a builder during the Vietnam War.
Klein fought in the Vietnam War a little less than two years.
“I shipped out and joined them in Vietnam in May of 1967, and they were killed in August,” Klein said.
And while he only knew his squad members for a short period of time, they changed his life forever.
“Richard Wager shared Christ with me, told me I need to be saved and know The Lord. It gave me a lot of hope, because when there was incoming, I’d pray. I mean, what do you do? You’d call out to God,” said Klein.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. is lined with names of those who gave their lives in the line of duty, and for Klein and Lewis, it was a reunion with the men who saved their lives.
“They were All-Americans. Patterson was a high school basketball star on his highschool team in Kansas. Jerry Newman was a wannabe country singer,” said Klein.
“A lot of the names, I can’t find simply because we remembered each other’s names; one fella’s name was Popeye. Different nicknames for a lot of guys, it’s hard to find a guy named Popeye,” Lewis said.
While it has been over 50 years since these men fought in Vietnam, the memories both good and bad, are still prominent in their lives.
“To me, it was only yesterday that they died. I didn’t get the chance to go to their funerals, didn’t get a chance to be with them,” Klein said.
“Reflecting back to a bad time in a lot of our lives. And then we came home, and it wasn’t anything like this fan fare,” Lewis said.
WMBD is proud to present Veteran’s Voices. Tune in Friday, June 7 during our 5:00 p.m. newscast for the story of Airman Robert Ritter, who served in the Air Force in the Vietnam Era.