Wilbert Scheffler sat on a bench outside the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial and cried a little bit.
Crowds of people were streaming past on their way to see the impressive park, with statues of the former president and famous quotes from his impactful administration. But Scheffler was talking about his buddy, Dick Mosca, and just couldn't help himself.
"When I was hitting rock bottom and was in the V.A. hospital in Fargo and was about ready to throw in the towel, Dick came to see me. He was about the only one," Scheffler said. "I just had some things go wrong in my life and didn't really want to live anymore ... and Dick probably knew that. But he came up to see me and that really made me feel good."
Scheffler, an 87-year-old Korean War veteran, was part of the WDAY Honor Flight that landed in the nation's capital on Sunday, Oct. 2. He was one of about 90 veterans from World War II and the Korean War who are part of a whirlwind two-day tour of historic sites and memorials.
It's a special time for these men and women, as well as their families and loved ones who traveled along. After touching down Sunday, a bus brought them from Dulles International Airport to the Iwo Jima Memorial, Arlington National Cemetery, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the FDR Memorial.
Still to come is a second tour day with stops at the National Archives, the World War II Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, Korean War Memorial and Vietnam War Memorial.
Scheffler is enjoying himself, but missing his friend. Mosca died Sept. 25 at the age of 86.
He was supposed to be on this trip with Scheffler and two other buddies from Barnesville, Minn., Edwin Haick and Arnold Swenson.
"Dick was really the one who put this together, he was the one really promoting it among us," Scheffler said. "He was kind of bugging me to go. 'C'mon, let's go on this thing. Let's do it.' I kept saying no and he kept pushing. So I finally said, 'Fine. I'll go if you go, but I ain't going if you don't go.'"
The WDAY Honor Flight allows veterans to travel free of charge to D.C., with the costs paid for by sponsors and donations. Scheffler said he strongly considered dropping out of the trip after Mosca's death, but was encouraged to follow through by his wife and a few other people.
"When he arranged it, I was really happy because I figured he could kind of lead me around and be there for me. He was just one of those guys who knew what he was doing, knew where he was going. He just had that confidence," Scheffler said.
Mosca was a former VFW post commander and he and Scheffler were both members of the Honor Guard, so they got to know each other that way.
Mosca was in the U.S. Navy from 1947-1966, serving on destroyers during the Korean War. Scheffler was an infantryman in the U.S. Army, so the two used to tease each other in the Army vs. Navy vein.
Scheffler saw combat in Korea, though, and that was nothing to joke about. He was part of the 7th Infantry Division that fought the Battle of Pork Chop Hill in 1953. The brutal fight between primarily U.S. forces and the Chinese cost heavy casualties on both sides and was controversial because there was not necessarily any strategic value to the hill. There was a movie made about Pork Chop Hill starring Gregory Peck.
"My best friend in the Army, Jim Cunningham, died on that hill," Scheffler said. "Somebody was looking out for me."
The veterans are getting a trip of a lifetime over these couple of days. They saw the changing of the guard ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and were able to view Arlington National Cemetery through the windows of their tour buses.
Many of the veterans are in their 80s and 90s, so the two days can be tiring. It's non-stop moving. Most seem to be excited, whether they are able to walk to see the sites or need to be pushed in a wheelchair.
Honor Flight fundraising coordinator Lance Akers says it is a hectic trip, but years of experience have made it easier. This is the seventh flight since WDAY began them in 2007.
"Our first flight in 2007 was a three-day trip and it was just too physically demanding and the guys just got worn out," Akers said. "We switched to two days and it's been great ever since. We have everything coordinated very tightly. We've done it enough times that we pretty much have it down to a science."
There is still time for emotion. Scheffler wiped away tears several times while talking about Mosca.
"It's just an awful hole to lose a friend a like that," he said. "Over there (in Korea) if a friend got killed, you kind of had to move on right away and keep going. When you lose somebody at this stage of life, there's lots of grieving time. I've spent a lot of time grieving the last couple of weeks."