Purple Heart veterans from Northeast Indiana take ‘honor flight’ to DC

Published: Aug. 7, 2023 at 5:06 PM EDT
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - Veterans from Northeast Indiana were in Washington Monday seeing memorials all over the nation’s capital. The veterans all shared a special bond as Purple Heart recipients. 102 veterans in total who were injured in combat piled off their buses, into the D.C. heat, and onto the National Mall.

“We did make a difference. Even though you’ve got whiny butts who said we shouldn’t have been there, etcetera, etcetera, we made a difference,” said Gary Minton, a Vietnam veteran.

Minton was one of 79 Vietnam veterans on the Purple Heart-only Honor Flight, a fitting way to mark National Purple Heart Day. He stands over a man he calls his brother, Rolland Street.

“I just feel good that I was able to go over there and help fight the war,” said Rolland Street, who also was injured in Vietnam.

Street stared up at the immense Vietnam Memorial Wall, which bears the names of those who died in the war. Street recognizes some of those names.

“I just appreciate what they did and the sacrifice they made,” said Street.

The veterans participated in a pinning ceremony, received yet another purple heart from young fans greeting them at the memorials, and honored their fellow service members who did not make it out alive.

“We survived this and lived through this and everything so it’s important. It’s very important,” said Jerry Walling.

A firefight and a hand grenade in Vietnam led to Walling receiving multiple Purple Hearts. In a nine-hour firefight, Jerry lost nearly 80 of his fellow soldiers. His passion lives on.

“You want to cry. You want to cry because it’s such a waste. Be honest about it, a lot of guys, 19, 20, 21 years old. It was a waste,” said Walling.

The group flew home Monday night, and upon arrival were given a welcome home celebration at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum.