ARLINGTON, Va. (ABC4) — At the U.S. Air Force Memorial in Virginia, a picture is worth more than 1,000 words, especially for Air Force Veterans like Rick Kirkwood and Jerry Derrick.

Kirkwood and Derrick first met while serving in the Vietnam War, and have been best friends for 50 years. Kirkwood served in Okinawa and Derrick served in Vietnam. After coming back to the U.S., the two continued their Air Force Service together around the world.

A few decades later, when Utah Honor Flight invited Kirkwood on the Veteran trip, he said he immediately knew who he had to bring.

“I called him and said, ‘I’m going on the Honor Flight.’ He said, ‘I’m coming with you,’” Kirkwood said. “We’re brothers.”

“It’s an honor for me that he asked,” Derrick said. “There’s no way I could say no.”

Together, the two have shared many life experiences, including a less-than warm welcome when they first got home from the war.

“We were told that we should change our uniforms when we got back from the states because of the protestors. People hated us,” Derrick said. “It hurt that people didn’t recognize the sacrifice, but in the long run it was worth it.”

Now, nearly 50 years later, together they are getting the recognition they say they did not get the first time.

“We’ve realized how much heartfelt love is out there for us now,” Kirkwood said. “After all these years of service, it brings something to our hearts that I can’t explain.”