World War II veterans take to the skies on restored planes

·1 min read

Some of America's most seasoned veterans are getting a chance to relive their youth thanks to some patriotic volunteers.

At 98, Loren Hellickson has a lot to celebrate. The World War II veteran climbed aboard a restored 1940s Stearman biplane for his first Dream Flight. He told CBS News he did it "to encourage others."

The nonprofit, made up of volunteer pilots, has launched Operation September Freedom. After suspending trips during the pandemic, they want to take to the skies with 1,000 World War II vets by the end of next month. 

Pam Swan, vice president of military relations for Veterans United Home Loans, said they see this as a race against time.

"We see that we have a small window here to be able to say thank you," she said.

Hellickson told CBS News, "I'm 98. I have difficulty finding any other veterans that are that age," adding that it makes him feel "old."

But not too old for the retired Navy corpsman, who survived battle in the South Pacific, to take a victory lap."What a wonderful trip," he said after the flight.

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