SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WAND) — Steve Wheeler was too young to fight in the Vietnam War.
But that hasn't stopped him from fighting for veterans once they come home.
"I couldn't help them then, but I can help them now," he said. "I was very, very close to going to Vietnam and I think that's one reason why I'm very close with these Vietnam guys."
Wheeler is the veteran coordinator for the Land of Lincoln Honor Flight, helping local veterans make a pilgrimage to Washington, D.C. to see the monuments and memorials erected in their honor.
In the past five years, Wheeler has flown to D.C. 14 or 15 times — he's honestly lost count. Each time, he returns to Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport to a sea of people supporting the veterans on the flight — veterans like Tommy Leidner.
"To me, it's a big honor," Leidner said. "When we first came home from Vietnam, we got not honor."
"They can reflect and heal a bit from their military careers that happened decades ago," Wheeler said. "I would not have had the opportunities in my life to do what I did without these vets doing what they did."