AUBURN, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- When you meet Ralph Sylvester, you quickly forget he is in his 90's. Ralph is lively and active, mows his lawn in the summer and snow blows his driveway in winter. Ralph is a veteran of World War II, and nearly all of them are now in their 90's. His friend, Burleigh Edwards -- also a WW2 vet -- is 94. The two men live just two miles from each other but had never met, until they traveled to Washington, D.C. last year with Honor Flight Maine.
The organization takes veterans of World War II, Korea, and Vietnam to visit their war memorials in Washington. Both men say the experience was unforgettable.
"It was overwhelming," said Ralph. "It almost brought a tear to my eye."
Also overwhelming -- the welcome the Maine vets received at the Baltimore airport, and later at the memorial sites. Other visitors were eager to see and thank the Honor Flight Maine veterans.
"It was a surprise and something you'll never forget in your lifetime," said Ralph Sylvester.
Burleigh Edwards agreed, although the most memorable site he mentioned was the Vietnam Memorial, filled with the names of more than 58,000 Americans killed by that war.
"But it was hallowed ground, I swear," said Burleigh. "When you come up there, it was ‘Oh my God, Oh my God, those names.’ You slow down and look and then look away. It hit me, boy, I'll tell you it hit me..."
Both men say they also loved the chance to share the trip with other veterans. The men were strangers before the trip, but almost instantly bonded, as more than 70 years slipped away. For a few days, they were again together with others who had shared the same experiences, from training to shipping out to the loss of friends to the thrill of coming home.
They hope Honor Flight Maine is able to let more Mariners share the memories, and hear the words of thanks for their service.