The loss of our World War II veterans has been well chronicled.

Hundreds of World War II veterans die every day across the nation, taking with them irreplaceable stories of a momentous time in American history.

For those of us not around during the second world war, it's mind-boggling to know that 16 million American men and women served in the U.S. military during that time. Today, we have 3 million in the nation's active and reserve forces.

If you didn't serve during World War II, you were close to someone who did. Everyone had a story.

From the troops on the front lines to those who supported them, the men and women in uniform during World War II all had unique experiences.

Many of us hunger for more details. After all, there's no better way to learn about such an important chapter in history than from those who took part.

A good number of veterans would rather not discuss their experiences. The reluctance is understandable, considering the horror of war.

Yet many World War II vets do indeed share details on their days in the service. Their personal recollections tell the story of war with more impact and meaning than any history book.

It's safe to say plenty of war stories were exchanged during the recent Garden City Honor Flight, a trip that took local and area World War II veterans to the nation's capital.

While there, the veterans saw the World War II Memorial, dedicated in 2004 to all who served in that global conflict.

They also visited the National Museum of the Marine Corps, Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and Arlington National Cemetery.

The charter flight out of Garden City was organized by the Great Bend-based Central Prairie Honor Flight organization, which has flown more than 1,400 World War II veterans from Kansas and nearby states to Washington.

As our readers know, The Telegram had a seat on the recent Garden City Honor Flight. Telegram reporter Shajia Ahmad's stories and photos helped us learn how the journeys unfold, and more about the veterans and their contributions.

Many veterans shared stories about their time at war. But just as compelling and maybe even more so were the emotions and reactions captured as the elderly vets were treated to a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Of course, the cost of flying veterans to Washington has been an issue. The program that's free to World War II vets relies on private donors, as well as the American Legion and other fraternal organizations able to help out.

Sadly, a federal government that asks so much of its military has done nothing to make sure veterans on a long waiting list experience an Honor Flight.

Veterans are hometown heroes. Each one should have an opportunity to visit the monuments that honor their service an experience that has helped many find a sense of closure.

At the same time, we also need to document the experiences and memories of our veterans.

As recorders of history, newspapers help gather and preserve such personal accounts for generations to come. By purchasing a seat on the Garden City Honor Flight, The Telegram had a rare opportunity to chronicle more veterans' poignant tales.

The hope is that in sharing those stories, we're helping more people understand the high cost of freedom, and consider supporting future Honor Flights that are such a meaningful salute to our veterans.

Putting one veteran on a flight costs about $650. Honor Flight organizations work to gather enough donations to fill as many flights as possible at no cost to the veterans.

Time is of the essence for our World War II vets. Many, many more deserve to see their dream of a visit to the nation's war memorials take flight.

E-mail Editor-publisher Dena Sattler at denas@gctelegram.com.