WASHINGTON, D.C. | Al Boren, 67, got out of his wheelchair Friday afternoon and stood by the Vietnam Wall.
Full of emotion, he quietly touched the names of the men listed on the wall -- fellow warriors who died in the Vietnam War.
Boren and wife Janis, of Jackson Township in Porter County, took a flight to see the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Having served in the Army in Vietnam from 1968-69, Boren always wanted to see the memorial.
But a series of health issues, including a bout with cancer, kept his dream from being realized. When his cancer came back last year, Porter County Visiting Nurse Association and Forever Young Senior Vet Wishes made his trip a reality.
Boren said he was thrilled about the trip and received the shock of his life when his two children, Sheila Boren Dieken and Shawn Boren, met them at the Wall.
"He just looked up and was totally shocked," Janis Boren said. "But then he got a big grin on his face."
The family started the day at Arlington National Cemetery and then went to the Vietnam Wall. Escorted by Tony Benedetti, from Tickets for Troops, Boren was wheeled to various locations.
"When we went to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, they were having the changing of the guard," Janis Boren said. "As we walked up to the line, people stepped back so that Al's wheelchair could be placed at the front of the line. It was remarkable how many young people came up to Al and thanked him for his service. One young girl started to cry. She told him that he is her hero, and she just held him.
"It is wonderful to see the youth of today remembering and being taught what our soldiers endured."
Boren's children said they were glad they were able to make the trip and surprise their father.
"It was pretty cool," Shawn Boren said. "He is so weak and rarely gets out of his wheelchair, yet he wanted to stand up and touch the Wall. When he rubbed the names of the soldiers, that was very emotional. This is closure for all of us."
Sheila Boren Dieken admitted the trip was very hard on the family emotionally.
"But it was neat to be able to stand my father and have him get close to the memorial," she said.