Honored for their service; Mission 13 reflects on Twin Tiers Honor Flight

When it comes to honoring veterans aboard the buses and planes for Twin Tiers Honor Flights, Mission 13 is no different.
Published: Oct. 21, 2022 at 3:42 PM EDT
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(WBNG) -- When it comes to honoring veterans aboard the buses and planes for Twin Tiers Honor Flights, Mission 13 is no different.

The days spent in Washington D.C. are short, but the impact is huge.

“I feel it’s been a long time coming,” said Army and Vietnam Veteran Leon Gee.

On Saturday, Vietnam Veterans, including Gee, were awarded Vietnam Commendation Lapel Pins; Something many of them never received when returning home.

“When I came home, people weren’t very nice to us, we couldn’t wear our uniforms,” Gee said. “Nothing prestigious about it. People were really bad. I mean, even their kids; They were teaching their kids to stay away from us, they didn’t want anything to do with us. So, the only thing we could do was go back into our own family system and live our lives the way we felt we should.

And much like Gee, others saw the same.

“This is a very emotional thing,” said Navy and Vietnam Veteran Bob Winterstein. “When I got out of the service in 1970, we didn’t have anything like this. It was an altogether different world, and a lot of the guys weren’t appreciated because of the war.”

U.S. veterans who served on active duty in the Armed Forces at any time between Nov.1, 1955 to May 15, 1975 regardless of location, are eligible to receive the pins.

However, for many, the pins are more than just a piece of hardware.

“You know, a lot of guys lost their lives over there,” Winterstein said. “I mean, war is hell. The movies make it look entertaining, but the only thing that can be glorified is the guys who put their lives on the line so that we can live in this beautiful country.”

But the group’s Vietnam veterans weren’t the only ones who were honored in a once-in-a-lifetime way.

On Saturday, four of Mission 13′s veterans, which included two Korean War vets, were part of a wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

“Well, I was just honored to be asked, number one,” said Army and Korean War Veteran Charles Baumgardner. “It was the last thing on my mind that I’d do something like that, and being picked out of all of those people is just mind-blowing for me. I’ll probably never have anything like that again.”

“I was surprised to do it, and it was awesome,” said Herbert Tipton, an Army and Korean War veteran.

And no matter how long it’s been, it’s about standing with your Brothers and Sisters in Arms, remembering the sacrifices made.

“To do it again? I’d do it again, but it’s just something you think about,” Gee said. “An obligation was there. I feel it was a prestigious thing for myself and everyone who did it.”

“I’ll tell you, it just takes time for healing, and this honor flight is [special],” said Winterstein.