Honor Flight veterans return to southern Arizona

Honor Flight veterans return to southern Arizona
Published: Nov. 14, 2023 at 6:58 AM MST|Updated: Nov. 14, 2023 at 9:25 AM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (13 News) - The 33rd Honor Flight from southern Arizona gave those who served our country the opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C.

Sixty veterans attended the 33rd honor flight from southern Arizona, including two who served in World War II.

Michael Hegemeyer, who served in the Vietnam War, said the cheers that filled the airport filled the hearts of the veterans. He said this is an experience many of the veterans shared was much different than coming home from war.

Hegemeyer remembers being spit on and screamed at when returning from Vietnam.

“It’s almost unbelievable what we happened before, and compared to what happened today,” Hegemeyer said.

Hegemeyer served in the Navy and said being a part of the Honor Flight brought him back to those days.

“The group of men and women that shared the experience of being in the fellowship of war,” Hegemeyer said.

Ken and Donna Cousino have been married for 36 years. They were able to share this experience as a family.

“We are both retired military and we were able to go together with our two kids,” Ken Cousino said.

Donna Cousino served as a nurse in the Air Force for 28 years. She tells 13 News, that engaging with other military branches made this honor flight more special.

“We had Marines with us, Navy with us, we had Army so they brought a perspective to it,” Donna Cousino said.

Ken Cousino served 20 years in the Air Force and says remembering those on the battlefield brought many emotions.

“We got to go through with the ones we have served with,” Ken Cousino said. “Looking at the wall I have names of friends that were killed in the war. I knew them for being there with them but I made it back but they didn’t.”

Bill Hellett began serving in the Air Force in the 1950′s.

“What really gets to you emotionally is the Tomb of the Unknowns,” Hallett said. “The changing of the guard.”

Hallett said despite the branch or time period served being able to share each other’s experiences is something they’ll never be able to forget.

“Very terrific group,” Hallett said. “Everybody got along like we were old military buddies kidding one another, people we had never seen before we all had a ball together.”

If you are or know a veteran interested in attending a future Honor Flight, officials say an application must be filled out.

The application can be found at www.honorflightsaz.org.

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