Reno, NV - Crowds packed the Reno-Stead Airport this weekend to catch the high-adrenaline action of the 2013 Reno Air Races.
On Saturday, four of them were veterans who are visiting here until Monday to watch the races. They were brought here by a national non-profit group called Operation Second Chance, which helps provide wounded veterans with trips to special events around the country like the Air Races, for free.
"Being able to do these retreats is a big piece of re-integration back to where they were before they left," said Retired U.S. Army Colonel, Ben Knisely, who's also an executive board member of Operation Second Chance.
They got the V.I.P. treatment with box seats, pit passes, breakfast in a hangar, among many other things.
Local financial advisor and pilot, Terry Scott, heard about Operation Second Chance and organized for them to check out the Air Races.
"I never had the opportunity to serve my country," he said. "To see these guys here and to feed them, and to talk to them, and to hear their story, they're all very, very brave people."
For the past year, he worked with Air Race officials for the free passes, as well as the Eldorado Hotel and Casino for free rooms.
"I thought it would be good to get the Reno community involved and bring these guys in here, just out of gratitude for everything they've given us," Scott said.
After about 20 years of flying helicopters for the U.S. Army, a veteran named Bryan retired in 2011 after he was medically-grounded. He now lives in Scottsdale, Arizona and says coming to Reno to see the planes is really igniting his childhood passion again.
"To come out here and watch some of these aircrafts go through the maneuvers makes me long for the cockpit again, that's for sure," he said.
James Dunn told me programs like Operation Second Chance helped him get a job with a government agency after retiring from the U.S. Army earlier this year.
"I was lucky enough to get a job with them in Sacramento," Dunn said. "That's what I do now."
Knisely says he believes they will return to Reno for the Air Races in the future.
"When the word gets out that this is a retreat that we did this year, it's going to be hard to not try to repeat this thing again and again," he said.
These trips are funded by the donations of generous people across the country.
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