PHOENIX – More than 20 World War II veterans received a standing ovation as they walked into Gate D of Terminal 2 at Phoenix Sky Harbor as they prepared for takeoff for the trip of a lifetime.

It’s part of Honor Flight Arizona’s mission to take veterans to see the Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC.

It was also part of a surprise for Navy veteran Norman Bartholow, 91.

“I didn't expect or know what was going to happen to be honest with you,” he said. "But it’s all been good.”

Bartholow was in Iwo Jima. He recalls being in the hospital as bombs dropped nearby, and he told the hospital staff to cover him with a mattress and to take cover.

But his fondest memory is with a hero of World War II, Admiral Chester W. Nimitz.

"He was the big wheel then, of course, in the Navy. He was running the whole Pacific,” he said. “I went up and played one game of horseshoes with Admiral Nimitz … It was a great experience.”

All the veterans had a unique experience in the second world war -- each one bonded by a common sacrifice and now, a new adventure.