MADISON (WKOW) -- It has been an emotional ride as we recapped our Badger Honor Flight experience.
One veteran says he couldn't ask for a better finale to his life.
A heroes' welcome at the airport in Washington D.C., another at the World War Two Memorial: all centered around two words: "thank you."
It was that phrase that meant the world for Navy Veteran Dick Houden.
Houden said, "At first you thought they were just congratulating you when they came up to you, but all of a sudden, they were thanking you, for what you did. Believe it or not, this is the first time we were ever thanked."
Thanked for service Houden didn't speak of for years.
Houden says, "When I came back, I didn't talk about anything. All I did was hang up my GI's, pick up my civvies, and melded into the population. Nobody asked, nobody told. Nobody came up and thanked you like they did on our trip."
"63 years later, why am I crying?! But this is the first time everybody came up to you."
Navy Veteran Dick Houden shares memories with his family from 60 years ago as a track star in Iowa, who enlisted in the Navy at age 23. He served on a Destroyer in the Pacific.
He and fellow sailors narrowly escaped death many times. They were just miles away from a typhoon.
Houden said, "Of the four [destroyers near the typhoon], three of them were capsized. 350 men were on each ship, that's 1000 men. We only could pick up nine."
Houden survived to tell his stories and 63 years later, to see his World War Two Memorial. Once home, his family has yet another memorial for Houden to see.
Dick Houden Jr. accompanied his dad on the Honor Flight. He brought his dad to the Pearl Harbor Memorial in Hawaii- via Skype, when our cameras were at the Houden home.
Houden Jr. said, "I can tell you, every time I hear the national anthem now, it's different than it was on the flight."
A thank you for the service of Houden and so many others.
Houden says, "If you have to go, that is the way to go. A man couldn't ask for a better ending in his life than what I've witnessed in the last couple months."
This has been a big year for Houden. He was inducted into the University of Wisconsin Hall of Fame. After the war Houden was a sprinter standout at UW-Madison, breaking records in the 100 and 70 yard dash. In September, he was honored at Camp Randall for his induction into the Hall of Fame.