NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — It’s been three years since Honor Flight of Middle Tennessee took its last flight, but after such a long wait, 26 veterans were gifted with a beautiful welcome.

“It’s just been a wonderful experience, and I never expected all of this,” said a 96-year-old World War II veteran, Nick Mugavero.

Before the pandemic, veterans serving as far back as World War II would gather together twice a year on a plane to visit our nation’s capital.

“When COVID hit here in Tennessee, they canceled our trip back then and they just now renewed it, so we’re getting to go,” another World War II veteran, Lloyd Klutts, said. “We’re really excited about it.”

Klutts is 101 years old and one of the few remaining veterans who served during World War II.

“I hit the Normandy Beach on the sixth day of June 1944, and I went across about seven countries in Europe,” he said.

While Klutts was storming Normandy Beach, Mugavero was on a destroyer in the South Pacific at the age of 17.

“I was a radio man, so I didn’t see a lot of the shooting going on, but our ship was very fortunate,” he said. “We went through everything from the beginning of the war to the end.”

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These men experienced more than we could ever imagine, but a trip to Washington, D.C., is something everyone — including Vietnam veteran Willie Joy — can’t wait for.

“It’s just going to be an honor to be able to see a lot of these things, especially the Vietnam Memorial wall, and the other things as well,” he said. “Arlington Cemetery, I’m looking forward to that.”

A warm welcome is something many of these men never received coming home, but sometimes it takes a little time — and a flight — to make things right again.

The veterans have a packed schedule filled with visits to different military memorials before they head back to Nashville the evening of Wednesday, Sept. 28.

Officials with Honor Flight of Middle Tennessee say they are planning their next flight in April 2023.

If you are interested in applying, click here to find more information.