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NEWS | Oct. 19, 2018

Soaring Valor flight brings World War II veterans, high school students together for New Orleans trip

By Steve Elliott 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs Office

They came from different services. They had different experiences serving their nation during World War II. They fought in different countries.

But the 40 WWII veterans gathered at the San Antonio International Airport Oct. 17 had one thing in common: Patriotism … Honor ... Pride.

The Soaring Valor program, created by the Gary Sinise Foundation, joined the National WWII Museum and American Airlines to bring these 40 veterans from the San Antonio area together with 40 high school students from Dallas to visit the National WWII Museum in New Orleans Oct. 17-19.

While in New Orleans, the veterans were treated to a one-of-a-kind experience, including a tour of the museum, as well as entertainment, celebratory meals and an opportunity for community with their fellow veterans. Sinise met with all the veterans and students once they arrived in the Crescent City.

Sinise’s foundation expanded the program in 2017 by inviting students to join the Soaring Valor trips. Students accompany the veterans through the museums exhibits, join them for celebratory meals and participate in public speaking alongside our featured guests. This educational experience allows younger generations to learn first-hand from “America’s Greatest Generation.”

This was the 14th Soaring Valor trip the Gary Sinise Foundation has sponsored. The foundation also sponsors an additional historian at the museum in an effort to collect as many stories from WWII veterans as possible.

While in San Antonio, the veterans and students got a send-off from the 323rd Army Band “Fort Sam’s Own, the 502nd Air Base Wing Honor Guard and heartfelt messages from local military leaders.

“We’ve confused celebrity status with heroism,” said Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Buchanan, commanding general, U.S. Army North (Fifth Army) from Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston. “If you’re looking for heroes, look no further than the group here. We should all be inspired by their valor.”

Also speaking was retired Army Lt. Gen. Rick Lynch, a former commanding general of the U.S. Army’s Installation Management Command at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston. “I am humbled to be in your presence,” he told the veterans. “The Soaring Valor program is one small way we can say thank you.”

The ceremony was a fitting send off to a group of heroes that grows ever smaller with every passing year, but also a group that has lost none of its passion when it comes to their love for their country.