On Oct. 11, 2022, more than 70 veterans flew out from Peoria International Airport to Washington D.C. during the final Greater Peoria Honor Flight of the year.

Veterans visited several memorials during the one-day trip, including the Air Force Memorial, U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall. 

Michael Denny of Washington, Illinois, was one of many veterans whose lives were changed throughout the Honor Flight experience. Denny described the Honor Flight experience as “top-notch,” from the transportation, meals, memorial visits and staff.

“The personnel on the flight understood emotionally the impact this trip had on us veterans,” Denny said.

Denny served in the U.S. Navy from 1970 to 1974 on the helicopter squadron during the Vietnam War. During his service, he was assigned to the USS Kittyhawk in 1971 and the USS Midway from 1972 to 1974. 

Denny typically withheld information about his military experience. It wasn’t until his wife told him about the Honor Flight that he began to contemplate what the experience had to offer, and he decided to fill out an application.

Eleven years later, Denny was able to go on his Honor Flight. He will remember his experiences on Oct. 11, 2022, as a day filled with healing and appreciation.  

Particularly, Denny shared that visiting the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall sparked his connection to it and the names inscribed on it. He’s visited The Wall before–but this time felt different.

“The deep-seated hurt didn’t feel heavy within my soul,” Denny said. “Is it completely gone? No, but it is lighter.”