EUGENE, Ore. - They start in wheelchairs, and this moment ends in the clouds; under a brilliant blue sky at the Eugene Airport Thursday, it was Grant Coleman's turn for a spin.
"It's just lifted him so much," said Coleman's sister Jo Coleman Harem. "He's pretty ill, fairly ill. He looks wonderful, but he is. But he's a very happy man, and this has made him happier."
The Ageless Aviation Dream Foundation stopped in Eugene Thursday, taking veterans into the air on an honor ride. Coleman was up first, and a small group of men gathered around, hoisting him from his wheelchair to the cockpit of the two-seater plane. They guided his feet as he walked on the wing, and outfitted him with goggles and helmet.
At one moment, with his face to the sky, Coleman seemed to be perfectly in his element.
The crowd of caregivers and family cheered as he was seated, the propellers spun, and Coleman soared. But soon enough, back to earth.
"My favorite moment was when they landed and I saw the look on his face, that white scarf flying in the air," said Coleman Harem.
"I just thank the good Lord for this flight....Couldn't have been more perfect," said Coleman, a former Army paratrooper and artillery tank commander. Coleman lived through the Battle of the Bulge, so it was no surprise this trip didn't scare him a bit.
"No, no, it was very nice. Just straight-level flying, mostly," he said.
Don Dubats didn't mind being second in line for this flight.
"He was excited to see someone else go first," said Martha Jenness of South Hills Rehab in Eugene.
Dubats served in Korea with the National Guard. His team earned the Presidential Unit Citation honor.
He said the last time he was in plane like the one at the Eugene Airport, he was happy.
"I was coming home from Korea," he said.
Before being wheeled toward the plane, Dubats was thanked for his service.
"When you guys climb off that wing, and I see the smile on your face, it makes it all worth it, I'll tell you that much," said Michael Bodenhamer with Ageless Aviation Dream Foundation as he shook Dubats' hand.
Time for take-off, and another veteran climbs to heights perhaps he knew long ago.