St. Petersburg, Florida -- The government shutdown isn't keeping veterans from Tampa Bay from an amazing opportunity as they head to Washington, DC onboard an honor flight.
This sure wasn't a salute Roy Sundelius had ever expected.
"I thought I was all through with all the 'hurrahs' and everything. So this is a nice, end-of-the-line kind of thing," he said.
Sundelius was one of 80 World War II veterans, paired with 80 volunteer guardians, boarding an honor flight bound for Washington early Tuesday morning.
The trip on an Allegiant Air charter jet -- all funded by donations -- was taking them from St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport to see the national World War II Memorial.
Bob Corson is the youngest at 85 years old.
After his brother was killed fighting in Europe, Corson and his three surviving brothers all went down to enlist on the same day together. Bob was 15.
"I just went in there and I just told them I wanted to go. My father signed me in, and I went," he said.
They had feared Tuesday's flight would be grounded by politics.
The assembled heroes said that last week they had been anxious over whether they'd even get to set foot in the memorial that had been erected in their honor.
"When you're watching TV and seeing what's going on... up in Washington, it looks sort of hopeless," Sundelius said.
"I thought this trip would be canceled," Corson said.
Park rangers said with the government shutdown, they didn't have the staff to patrol the memorial. But they've decided to open it especially for honor flights like this.
The whirlwind trip Tuesday will take them from the airport tarmac before sunrise, to D.C., and back -- all in one long, emotional day.
It's Tampa Bay's "thank you" to the men and women who -- as practically boys and girls -- did nothing less than save the free world.
You are invited to welcome them home to St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport on Tuesday night.
The plane is expected to arrive at about 9:20 p.m. Parking is free and the organizers from the nonprofit group Honor Flight of West Central Florida would love to have a big crowd on hand.
Grayson Kamm, 10 News