PEORIA — David Dallinger said going on an Honor Flight was "one of the best things" he had ever done.
The 76-year-old East Peoria man, who spent 30 years in the Air Force and in the Air National Guard, flew out early Tuesday morning as part of the Greater Peoria Honor Flight in stormy weather.
His son-in-law Joshua Eaker, 38, also of East Peoria, accompanied Dallinger, said the experience has been one of his best.
"The changing of the guard at Arlington National Cemetery has been his favorite experience so far. This trip means everything to him. He had been waiting to go for a while now and just can’t believe the experiences he has had. The welcome at the airport when we arrived, as well as all of the people that have been walking up to thank him has brought tears to his eyes," he said.
The Honor Flight took off early Tuesday from Gen. Wayne A. Downing Peoria International Airport for a whirlwind, daylong tour of the nation’s service and war memorials. Veterans of World War II, Korea and Vietnam are flown free of charge. Their guardians, often family members or friends, help them with the day. On this flight were 73 veterans, including five World War II veterans. The rest were from the Korean War era, the Vietnam War era or later.
For Eaker, it was a "once in a lifetime" experience.
They also got to experience a lightening strike as the plane was struck while flying to Washington, D.C.
The airline operating the flight, Sun Country Airlines, responded to an inquiry, confirming that flight 8657 "landed safely and without incident" at Washington Reagan National Airport at 9:27 a.m. local time.
"The lighting strike wasn’t much of anything. We didn’t even know the plane was hit until we started hearing about it from the news story," Eaker said.
Andy Kravetz can be reached at 686-3283 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @andykravetz. Chris Kaergard contributed to this story.