"I thought it was going to be some secret mission, but everywhere we went the crowds stood and cheered for us," said Air Force veteran and Dodge City resident Frank Sumaya.

Sumaya was part of the Kansas Honor Flight, an organization whose goal is to send Kansas veterans to Washington D.C. to visit war memorials.

The flight is for those veterans who served in World War II, the Korean War or the Vietnam War.

Samaya is a Vietnam veteran, serving in the Air Force from 1967-73.

The itinerary featured trips to not only the war memorials but to Fort McHenry, the site where the "Star Spangled Banner" was written, Arlington National Cemetery, and the Air Force and Navy Museums.

"We met with (U.S. Representative) Ron Estes and cheerleaders and family members that greeted us at the airport," Sumaya said. "I couldn't help but cry, I felt I didn't do a damn thing to deserve this."

Samaya was joined by fellow veterans mostly made up of those from the Vietnam War.

"There were 27 veterans and a guardian so 56 of us total went on this trip," Sumaya said. "My son Marcelino was the guardian that went with me.

"I stood next to the Lincoln Memorial and while at Fort McHenry, when they played the National Anthem after the video we watched, the screen rose up and in the distance you could see the huge American flag.

"It was extremely special."

One of the more memorable tours for Sumaya, was the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

"As the change the guard," he said, "the soldier would scrape his foot along the pavement. That only happens when the Kansas Honor Flight is there, it's a tribute to us being there."

Despite taking the flight, Sumaya isn't finished.

"I petitioned Senator Pat Roberts to have the poem by John Gillespie Magee Jr. (a pilot officer for the Canadian Royal Airforce from 1940-41) put into the Air Force Memorial," Sumaya said.

The next Kansas Honor Flight is set to place from Sept. 5 through Sept. 7.

According to the Kansas Honor Flight, the cost to send one Kansas veteran is $750. The Kansas veteran pays nothing.

"We have to raise $330,000 this year to fund the 11 flights we have planned to send," Kansas Honor Flight said to the Globe on Tuesday. "When these men and women Kansas veterans return to Wichita, the citizens of the Wichita area come out by the hundreds and give these returning Kansas veterans a 'Wichita Heroes Welcome Home.'

"A welcome home that many never received when they separated form service.

These Kansas veterans will almost always say, 'It's a trip, of a lifetime.'

"For many of these Kansas veterans, it's the sunset of their lives and helps with closure by putting combat memories in the distant past.

"We are always looking for support funding to keep our honorable mission going so each of our Kansas men and women veterans of World War II, Korean War and the Vietnam War, can be honored and remembered.

"I once read on a Vietnam War Veterans tombstone a sentiment that said, 'If you are remembered, you will never be forgotten.'"

For more information about the Kansas Honor Flight visit www.kansashonorflight.org.

To contact the writer email vmarshall@dodgeglobe.com