In the 17-year history of Honor Flight, they’ve given solace to hundreds of thousands of veterans and their guardians.

But last month, it was two cities, two flights and one unforgettable experience.

"The enthusiasm is terrific, the planning starts months ahead of time," said John Hall, volunteer director for Honor Flight Syracuse.

"We get everyone in as efficiently as we can, make sure everybody is safe and see them off for a day they all deserve," added departure coordinator Kathy Fitzgibbons. 

It was an early sendoff full of pomp and circumstance for Honor Flights from the Salt City and Buffalo.

"We couldn’t enjoy the freedoms that we take for granted if it wasn’t for your sacrifice to our nation," rang from the speaker system as more than 150 veterans, guardians and volunteers made their way to cruising altitude.

Airports full of people took time to say thanks.

It’s about more than the conflicts they represent. This is a trip back in time.

Some might not realize the difference they made.

"One of my favorite stories. 'oh I did nothing'," said Syracuse Honor Flight photographer and veteran Ed Madgziak. "Yeah, the Japanese bombed us, escaped us, but we still haven't finished and you look at the…what do you mean you did nothing?"

For others, the sacrifices were palpable. 

"You know, you pick ‘em up an you look at them and you think, you know, where were they from, did they have family, did they have kids," said Vietnam War Army veteran Denny Behm. "Just a sad, sad thing."

Through the lows and the highs, it’s a collective experience.

"It's a big honor for me to be here. And meet some of the comrades who are still alive," said Korean War Air Force veteran Andrij Guzelak.

"Although I don’t know them personally, we look at each other and we say thank you…thank you for your service, thank you for being there," said Vietnam War Air Force veteran Thomas Cooney. "Just like I was there when they needed me."

Even years into these flights, there are still firsts.

"It was one of the most humbling and fulfilling experiences of my life," said Raymond Wohlfeil, who got to lay a wreath at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier with two brothers and a cousin. "We all wore a different uniform but we all carried the same flag."

Western New York’s first service dog, Stan, is helping a Vietnam vet with PTSD. 

"To him it’s nothing, it’s a job…and it’s a job that saves me," said Anthony Gliszczynski.

Everyone’s experience is unique.

"Very rewarding…she likes pushing me around," said Korean War Army veteran Frederick Forsyth.

With takeaways not just for the vets, and the day done, it was time to go back home, where a hero’s welcome awaited. 

"I think it’s just the person themselves, the person that you sit to the left or right of, it’s just getting to hear what their day-to-day life is what got them up and what did they do because it’ll inspire you," said Captain Mark McGuinness, who served as a volunteer guardian on this trip. 

"When you got home, the first time you want is to get the uniform off because they hollered at you, so now this is good," said Vietnam War Army veteran Robert Donaldson. "This is a good thing."