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Honored to be part of Honor Flight

It's always been my belief that everyone has a story to tell. That's what got me into journalism and that's what drives me to this day, because stories, unless told, are often lost with time.

I was recently honored to be a part of the Roughrider Honor Flight, which departed in early May to take nearly 100 area veterans to see the World War II memorial in Washington, D.C. During that trip, I was able to hear some of the greatest stories: Stories of those who served in World War II and those that never came home.

It was my privilege to travel with men and woman from the flight to a variety of different sites, including the Lincoln, Vietnam, Korean and Iwo Jima memorials and, of course, the World War II Memorial, which many veterans have not had a chance to see.

When asked what they thought of the memorial, many said they felt honored to be able to see it, as many of their friends who have passed could not. A tale too often told of our World War II veterans.

Traveling with these veterans, most in their 80s, I was brought into their lives and witnessed the pride, listened to their stories of sacrifice and observed the touching camaraderie between them as they discussed their military days.

I lost count of the number of times I would be walking with a group of veterans, heading to one memorial or another with my camera and notebook, and out of the blue people would approach them, hug them and shake their hands. Young children offered their small hands and asked for photos with these living legends.

I was touched by the humbleness of the veterans, who shyly waved to those who passed by and clapped for them and waved American flags.

"It was like being in Graceland and having Elvis show up," said Kevin Cramer, Roughrider Honor Flight Committee co-chairman.

I couldn't have said it better myself.

It was hot and humid the two days we spent in D.C., but the vets held out. I don't believe I ever heard anyone complain. Committee members were ready with water, sun block, snacks and air conditioned tour busses to ensure the vets were well taken care of.

On their return, members of the military, friends, family and music welcomed them home. Many veterans couldn't hold the emotion back. As a mere bystander, it was hard for me, as well.

There are millions of untold stories that have yet to be told, from our family, our friends and especially our veterans, who have been places and seen things that many of us could never imagine.

I urge you, this Memorial Day and every day, if you get the chance to meet some of our brave men and women of the military, past and present, take the time to talk with them, ask questions, but most of all, listen. It has been my experience in my short life that if one is quiet enough to listen, stories come from even the quietest of people.

We all have stories to tell, and those stories shape who we are. The stories of our veterans make up our history and help us fully appreciate the sacrifice for our freedoms that we enjoy today.

As a journalist, a proud and free American and as someone who has been a part of something she'll definitely never forget, I'll be the next to say it, but hopefully not the last: Thank you veterans, for all you have done.

To my fellow Roughrider trip members: It has truly been an honor traveling with you and hearing your stories.

God bless all of you.

-- Beth Wischmeyer is a staff writer for The Dickinson Press.