WASHINGTON, D.C. - Nearly 70 of the 145 remaining members of the Army National Guard's 126th Supply and Service Company are traveling to Washington, D.C., Thursday on a historic Great River Honor Flight.
The men of the 126th were deployed to Vietnam in late 1968 at the height of the conflict, the only Illinois National Guard unit to be called to active duty in southeast Asia. There were 181 men called and 181 who returned.
Thursday's flight is the first time a local Honor Flight is made up almost solely of veterans from one particular unit. With the exception of one veteran who served in World War II - and is the father of a 126th guardsman - all other veterans are members of the local National Guard unit that served in Vietnam.
Stephanie and Jen Oitker, daughters of Gail Oitker, one of the veterans on the flight, are sharing photos and updates throughout the day.
This will be updated throughout the day and a follow-up story will be published Friday.
By Stephanie Oitker
(Times are Eastern)
10:30 a.m.: Arrived at Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Very moving, humbling experience. Ceremony to honor those who have died since coming home. Then saw Lincoln Memorial.
Noon: Arrived at World War II Memorial. U.S. Rep. Ray LaHood, R-Ill., greeted the veterans upon arrival. Vietnam veteran Jim Paben is on the trip - along with his father, World War II veteran LeRoy Paben.
1:10 p.m.: Short stop at the Marine Corps War Memorial, commonly called Iwo Jima. There are 13 hands on the statue - the 13th is said to be the hand of God.
1:45 p.m.: Back on the bus to head to Arlington National Cemetery and the Changing of the Guard ceremony. The vets have been up for hours - but are in great spirits.
2 p.m.: Changing of the Guard at Arlington National Cemetery. Amazing precision and visitors are asked to be silent and respectful. We were standing for the entire ceremony.
3:30 p.m. Loaded up and headed to the Air Force Memorial. Thanks to our police escorts, getting around with two buses and another vehicle is a breeze.
3:45: Arrived at Air Force Memorial. Last stop before heading to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport around 4:45 for the flight home.
• 58,267 names
• Three sets of fathers and sons
• 39,996 are under 22
• One 15-year-old - PFC Dan Bullock
• 997 killed on their first day in Vietnam
• 1,448 killed on their last day in Vietnam
• 31 sets of brothers
• Eight women - nurses
• First known casualty - Richard Fitzgibbon of North Weymouth, Mass. Killed 6/8/56
• Jan. 31, 1968 - most killed in a day (245)
• May 1968 - most killed in month 2,415