WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - From 1944 to 1946, June Rothberg-Blackman was an army nurse.
Saturday evening, the Jensen Beach resident was one of 89 veterans who disembarked from the Southeast Florida Honor Flight at Palm Beach International Airport. That day, many had set eyes on a memorial that pays them tribute for the very first time.
"I had no idea what to expect," admitted Rothberg-Blackman. "It was wonderful."
Before a rousing welcome home, her jam-packed day included stops at the Iwo Jima Memorial, Arlington National Cemetery and her own monument, dedicated to World War II veterans.
"No matter where we went, there were people who were grateful," she recalled.
Each veteran was assigned a volunteer guardian, like Diane Charette of Stuart.
"It was the best experience of my life!" Charette enthused.
Paying tribute to these veterans on this trip gave Charette even more appreciation.
"To be able to be with these heroes for the full day, and share that experience with them, was wonderful," said Charette.
So far, more than 500 veterans have taken free flights to DC through this local Honor Flight chapter. The Southeast Florida division is one of 93 across the nation.
Leo Olivier of Jensen Beach served as an army soldier from 1944 to 1946. He began his tour of service in the Philippines, and completed it in Japan.
Living through those memories at the memorials, he was overcome with emotion.
"It's unbelievable," said Olivier, as his eyes filled with tears. "I really enjoyed it."
Seeing the crowd and hearing the cheers brought forth even more of Olivier's patriotism.
"The reception that we got in every place was unreal," said Olivier. "This is a great country."