Ken Knipker recently had a unique walk down memory lane.
The California native recently returned from Washington, D.C., after taking part in the 58th Central Missouri Honor Flight.
"Oh, I loved it," Knipker said. "Me and about 100 other guys got to go there and take a look around. I think there were about four Korean (War) vets, and the rest of us were from 'Nam."
Knipker spent just less than four years as a sailor with the U.S. Navy. While he boarded many a ship in his military career, it was on board the aircraft carrier "The Oriskany" that he spent two tours in the Vietnamese theater.
"We got to see a lot of the memorials, and that was very nice," Knipker said. "There was one thing I wanted to see, but didn't get the chance to. My mother was a WAVE, and I was excited to see her name on the Women's Memorial. But when we got there, they were doing some reconstruction on it. So that was a minor bummer."
One special exhibit was able to make up for the minor bummer, Knipker said.
"My son is stationed in Virginia, and he and his wife drove up to have lunch with me," he said. "I got to meet my new grandbaby, who I've only seen in pictures."
Knipker said the Central Missouri Honor Flight generally has more veterans participate, which may be because of "guardians."
Guardians are volunteers who accompany and assist veterans who travel on the Honor Flights. The guardian Knipker and his new friends had was an Air Force veteran, who had to remind Knipker to relax on his trip.
"We had a little gal with us," he said. "Along with that, there was a Marine veteran who I think retired as a lieutenant colonel. He could walk, but when he did he'd huff and puff for a bit. So I pushed him along in his wheelchair. Our little lady had to tell me to stop pushing him because that was her job. But I just wanted to help him a little, too."
Knipker received his application for the Honor Flight from the Veteran's Day fundraising effort that was conducted by the U.A.W. Local 2379 Veteran's Committee and ABB in Jefferson City. Just a month or so after submitting the final paperwork, Knipker got his ticket.
The Central Missouri Honor Flight is a part of the National Honor Flight Network, a nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing closure to veterans of foreign wars.
As of yet, the Central Missouri Honor Flight has taken upwards of 4,000 Missouri veterans to Washington, D.C. The staff that assists veterans on each flight include doctors, nurses, first responders, photographers, guardians and other support personnel, which can total 500-600 volunteers per flight.