Acadiana veterans receive unexpected surprise at National World War II Memorial

Posted at 7:43 AM, May 30, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-30 08:43:34-04

On Tuesday, 24 Acadiana World War II veterans visited the memorial for the war that would define their lives. 

But what happened after their class photo was remarkable. 

Visitors to the memorial started lining up, to shake hands with the veterans and share a few moments with the men who shaped history. 

Among those who waited in line was 15-year-old Tre Wiggins from Arkansas. 

Tre told KATC that it means a lot to him to pay his respects to those who served.

"World War II was such a big battle, and honestly, without their sacrifice, this country probably wouldn’t be where it is today and I certainly wouldn’t be here."

That line of "thank-yous" at the World War II Memorial lasted about twenty minutes. The veterans hope the lessons they shared today will last a lifetime. 

"They seemed to appreciate it," says veteran Joe Richard. "It’s a good thing for them to know what we went through, the country especially."

Richard was at Pearl Harbor on the "day that lives infamy." In the days that followed that world-changing event, Richard rescued 33 people from the USS Arizona and three from the USS Oklahoma. Being at this memorial makes him think of the ones who didn’t make it. 

The moment at the memorial allowed the veterans, like Richard, to share their stories, their history with a younger generation. These are lessons that will transcend generations, even the greatest of them all. 

Of these lessons, 15-year-old Wiggins says, "It gives me the motivation to pursue my dreams and make this world a better place."

The 24 veterans will return to the Lafayette Regional Airport this afternoon at 4:50 pm. The public is invited to head out to pack the airport to welcome them home. 

To read more about the Heroes Flight and trip in Washington, D.C., click here

Also be sure to follow KATC’s Jim Hummel for updates on the Veterans return.