KILLEEN, Texas (KWTX) A local Marine and Vietnam War veteran was among dozens who took a trip of a lifetime to the nation’s capital.
For GW Shopbell, the trip to D.C. is one he’ll always remember. The trip, sponsored by Honor Flight Austin, providing a special opportunity for the many men and women who risked their lives for our country.
Shopbell was part of 40 veterans from World War II, Korean and Vietnam wars who boarded a flight at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport on Sept. 6 for the trip.
“It was…it was awesome,” Shopbell said while holding back tears.
The Killeen-native joined the Marine Corps in 1964. One year later, he says he’s fighting in Vietnam with the 1st Battalion 9th Marines – also known as The Walking Dead.
“People don’t know what we went through, they’ll never understand. It’s the same thing with the guys in Iraq coming back. They are getting a good welcome home, we planted the seed and they’re reaping the harvest. War is hell that is all there is to it…war is hell,” he said.
On this honor flight, many seeing memorials and monuments dedicated to their service and their lost comrades for the first time.
“I didn’t go to the wall but i went to where the three soldiers were and had my picture made there. I went over to the Washington monument and then I went over the Korean War monument because I wanted pictures of it,” he said.
Through the trip, there was also a guardian to assist in making sure Shopbell had a memorable time.
Taking care of those who sacrificed so much for the freedoms we enjoy today.
“They treated us like royalty. We had a police escort everywhere we went,” he said.
There was a special moment the next day on the flight back to Austin, he says. Envelopes filled with letters of appreciation handed out to the veterans onboard. He waited until he was home to open them.
When the plane landed back Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, there was a welcome home celebration, filled with a standing ovation, fit for our heroes.
“I say close to 150 people welcomed us home,” Shopbell said in tears. “My daughter was there with a sign and I have to admit it was 50 something years too late but it was a welcome home.”
An emotional experience, one filled with memories that veterans will tell generations to come.
Shopbell says the Honor Flight is one he recommends for every veteran and certainly one he will remember for the rest of his life.
You can find information about Honor Flight Austin posted on this page.