WASHINGTON D.C. - Andre Fluellen stepped on the plane, wearing a humble expression while looking at the people flanking all his sides.
"I'm in the presence of royalty," he said. "This is so cool man."
You'd think the starstruck 34-year-old had just seen his favorite football player. Except Fluellen is a football player - a good one too. And all the 6 foot 2, 302 pound former Lion was gaze in amazement at the people around him. Surrounding him were dozens of veterans on an honor flight to celebrate their service.
It was all quite emotional.
"Oh this is just fantastic, it's just unbelievable," said one veteran, his voice trailing off.
On Sunday, FOX 2 was invited to join 77 veterans who fought across some of the country's most encompassing conflicts on an NFL-sponsored flight. Put together by Talons Out, the former servicemen were invited to travel to Washington D.C. for the day and bask in an honor only deserving of them.
But monuments sunk in cement and elegantly carved as a tribute to the men who served are powerful objects and these monolithic structures struck a melancholy chord for many who came along for the ride.
"It took me over 40 years - 40 years. I didn't want to think about...It was probably the worst time in my life," said Joe Abbatt, an Army veteran.
"You try to push it to the back part of your brain. But when your brain is resting, it still comes out," said Clarence Vaughn, a U.S. Air Force Veteran.
Accompanying the vets were former Detroit Lion legends, who acted as caretakers for the men.
"This is a commitment they made to this country, this is unbelievable man - some of these veterans," said Lomas Brown, former Lions Offensive Tackle. "I don't know why they call us heroes, because you're right - our consequences aren't nearly what their consequences were. We get to go home to our families after a game. You know some of them, they don't."
And some of them never received the welcome that was waiting for them at the Kalamazoo Airport when they came home. Thousands of fans, some complete strangers, awaited the return of these vets.
A lasting sentiment was struck by one of the men who flew - and he imparted his wisdom for the benefit of all to hear.
"There's too much division right now. You know hopefully, something like this will help. That's what I hope for."