Veterans reunite for weekly in-person gatherings after year of virtual COVID meetings

WEST HILLS, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- For years, a close-knit group of veterans met weekly, offering each other support and friendship. But then the pandemic hit and they had to take their gatherings virtually.

Until now.

After spending 14 months apart, these meetings have once again taken flight.

"The friends that I made in the service I still have. And they're closer to me than the ones that I met in the workplace. There's a bond there. There's sort of a secret bond that we share," said Lt. Col. Ed Reynolds.

They call themselves "Wings over Wendy's." The group includes veterans, veteran supporters and aviation and military aficionados. And for the past 20 years they have met at one Wendy's restaurant every Monday morning.

But in March of 2020 when the COVID pandemic hit, these vets, like the rest of the world went virtual. To stay connected, many learned how to Zoom and FaceTime for the very first time.

This week, they finally get to see each other in person once again.

"There are people that came today that wouldn't get on zoom. So it was so good to see them show up at the physical meeting because they could never figure out how to get on Zoom," said Lt. Col. Reynolds.

Wings over Wendy's was established in 2002. But began a year earlier as a lunch group of about a dozen vets, who met weekly at the West Hills Wendy's Restaurant. Since then the group has grown to more than 100. Their friendship rooted in their love for the America and shared life experiences.

"Young people. I want them to understand that the freedom they're enjoying and myself included, didn't come free to us. Someone was willing to put their life on the line. I know of no marine, soldier or sailor who wanted to die but every one of us were willing to do that if it was going to preserve our freedom," said Barney Leone, US Navy Veteran.

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