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Honor Flight: A true perspective on Memorial Day

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(WDAY)—As we get ready to mark Memorial Day this weekend, some humble heroes who live among us, remind us what the holiday is all about: remembering the men and women who have died while serving our country.

It's honor and remembrance not limited to one day a year for those on the recent WDAY Honor Flight.

As World War II and Korean War Veterans got the trip of a lifetime to Washington DC the men and women who never came home were never far from their minds.

"Too many people lost their lives. It's still too close," said Curt Nelson, Korean War Vet.

Even after more than 65 years, the memories of war and loss are fresh.

"There were too many killed, and that you never get over. You run up and try to save a guy and he takes one more breath and that's it," said Nelson.

Army Corporal Curt Nelson earned silver and bronze stars and for his 'Gallantry in Combat' in Korea, his war story reads like a novel.

"Nearly wiped out when we made a venture to higher ground," said Nelson, reading.

Pinned down from enemy machine gun fire he watched as fellow soldiers, friends were shot and killed.

"Three men were casualties," said Nelson.

He ran through the barrage of gunfire to tend to each of their wounds and drag their bodies to safety one by one.

"And I remember one very vividly. A mortar had blasted right next to him and his leg was almost sheared off halfway up his thigh," said Nelson.

He, like the more than 1,000 Veterans who have now been part of the eight WDAY Honor Flights over the past decade have a different perspective as they walk through these memorials and mark Memorial Day.

"We lost one Captain when I was on R & R. And I had about three calls, etty close calls, somebody was watching over me," said Luvern Axness, Korean War Vet.

Even with a purple heart proudly pinned to his cap, Korean War Vet Luvern Axness, shies away from attention and glory.

"I don't know if I'm that much of a hero, but I did my job. I went to service and served my country and I feel good about," said Axness.

Their stories, seldom shared come easily in front of memorials built in their honor with men they just met, who share a bond and brotherhood.

"We were fixing the telephone lines and a mortar came in and he had a left arm that really got it. And I had a piece of shrapnel just in there. You can't even see it now," said Axness.

Humble heroes, ordinary men doing extraordinary things.

"Times we didn't get no food for three days or water. We were pinned down but we didn't give up," said Norbert Vanyo, Korean War Veteran.

It's a service and sacrifice recognized by complete strangers in our nation's capital, a shared language not needed to show respect.

It's what Honor Flight and Memorial Day are all about letting these men and women and the hundreds of thousands who lost their lives in World War II and Korea know they will never be forgotten.

You can read the stories of every veteran who's been part of a WDAY honor flight in a special book called In their Honor.

Reserve your copy on, it comes out in July, we're also planning a documentary on Honor Flight in July.

Kerstin Kealy

Kerstin was raised in Buffalo, Minnesota. She received her broadcasting degree from Moorhead State University. She started at WDAY in April of 1997 as a reporter. She co-anchors and produces the 6pm and 10pm news.

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