For many veterans, going on the Honor Flight is one of the best days of their lives, but that doesn’t make remembering the past any easier.
“Thank you, sir,” said a passerby to Denny Wittmeyer.
For him, the Honor Flight was full of gratitude as people thanked him for his service and meant it. For a veteran who was drafted into the Vietnam War, it’s a big change from what he experienced in the past.
“I changed my military clothes on an airplane into civilian clothes because there was problems in airports. Today, I must have bumped fists, shook hands with 1,000 people,” said Wittmeyer.
It’s something Wittmeyer just was not used to.
“I’m no hero. I just did what I had to do,” said Wittmeyer.
It’s gratitude that thousands of soldiers never got, including two of Denny’s buddies, Andrew Shim and Frank Ragusa.
“Two friends…they were a couple bunks down from me,” recalled Wittmeyer.
They are two of more than 58,000 names on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
It’s a place Denny’s seen before.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve been down here to this wall,” he said.
But it’s also an experience that doesn’t get any easier.
“They both got killed on an airplane…right after I left,“ recalled Wittmeyer.
“They’re right here with you,” said Tom Petrie, the president of the Buffalo Niagara Honor Flight.
“This is tough, this is tough,” said Wittmeyer. “Good guys… Andy got engaged over the phone on an R&R…he had 12 days to go.”
But with the Honor Flight, he had the best support system you could imagine.
“I did my job,” said Wittmeyer.
“Nah, you did more than a lot of others did,” said Petrie.
People surrounding Wittmeyer made sure he knew he is a hero and won’t let him forget it.
“Look at my face, you think I'm not happy?" asked Wittmeyer. "I’m overjoyed hun, just an emotional day because I got names on that Wall and I’m a typical Vietnam veteran. I didn't do nothing special I just…they were friends."
“Denny, we love you forever,” said Petrie, handing Wittmeyer a challenge coin.
It’s a day that had a huge impact on Denny’s life. His wife said after he got home he told her he felt that he finally left Vietnam behind at the wall.
“Awesome isn’t even the word for today…I don’t know what to say,” he said.
“Do you think you’re ever going to forget this day,” Spectrum News 1 asked him.
“No, of course not. How could you forget a day like this,” Wittmeyer responded.
Join us Friday for our final story from the Honor Flight. A World War Two veteran, who, despite some struggles, was able to see the World War Two memorial ... for the first time.