WATERLOO -- Mike Luck of New Hartford was reunited with some of his friends from the service Tuesday.
The last time he saw them was in Vietnam in 1969. In an ambush. He survived. They didn't.
They're on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial — "The Wall" — in Washington, D.C. Luck visited them, as one of more than 100 veterans who traveled to the nation's capital on a Cedar Valley Honor Flight from the Waterloo Regional Airport, visiting various military memorials.
Most were Vietnam veterans. For Luck and many others, the Vietnam memorial was the most emotional.
"It's wonderful. It's a great thing they do for everybody. But at the same time, it brings back those old memories," Luck said while he was at the wall. "I've got six guys for sure that I know. I just found three of them on the Wall. They died, and I came close to it. When you see how close you came to being on that wall, after all these years, you still have those memories.
Roger Schoonover of Waterloo, like Luck an Army veteran of Vietnam, said, "I was very hesitant to walk down the pathway to the actual wall. It brings back some good memories and a lot of bad ones. I brought my son this time and let him receive some of the pride that this wall brings out in people. It's a healing wall. It was very touching."
He recognized many names. "Some were in my class and about 130 of them here served in my unit that died in a three-year span." He served in the 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment of the 25th Division in Vietnam from 1966-67.
"We just took a picture where Dave Paulsen's name was in our class," Schoonover said. Paulsen, a fellow 1965 graduate of West High School, was a Marine killed in Vietnam in November 1966.
"It brings back pictures and faces, and it's tough. It's tough," Schoonover said. "Korea and the World War II memorials are both nice, but this is the one I'm involved with, and it brings out more."
It was his second trip to The Wall, which bears the names of 58,000 Americans who died in that war. "It's not easy any time," he said. "It's just hard to imagine they all died for our country."
"I knew quite a few whose names were on the wall, a few I was in school with," said Vietnam veteran David Weinberg, formerly of Plainfield and now of Shell Rock. "It's impressive and 'depressive,' if that's a word. So many names.
"It's been a good day," Weinberg said. "Some guys I didn't know before, I got to talk to them. The Washington Monument was real impressive."
'It's a wonderful day and a wonderful trip," said Don Krull, a Korean War era veteran from Parkersburg. "Washington is quite the place. It's just amazing. Everyone is so kind and generous."
"It's very touching, very sentimental," said Vietnam veteran Jim Mohlis of Oelwein. "I recommend all vets do this that have been overseas. It's a very, very important day."
Later Tuesday, after visiting the World War II, Vietnam and Korean War memorials, they were scheduled to visit Arlington National Cemetery and watch the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns and participate in a wreath-laying ceremony there.
A homecoming celebration for the veterans was scheduled at the Waterloo airport at about 10 p.m. Tuesday.
This is the third and final Cedar Valley Honor Flight of 2017. More than 1,300 veterans have made the flights from the Waterloo airport since they began in 2011. Initially the flights were limited to World War II veterans but eligibility was later expanded to now include veterans up through Vietnam, including Korea and the Cold War.
Military veterans from Black Hawk, Bremer, Buchanan, Grundy and the northern half of Tama counties who served in warm or Cold War peacetime from World War II through Vietnam are eligible.
Applications can be picked up at any of the Waterloo, Cedar Falls and Waverly Hy-Vee Stores or by going to the organization's website, www.cedarvalleyhonorflights.org, or the Cedar Valley Honor Flight's Facebook page. Donations are being accepted to continue the flights.