NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Technology has come to the rescue of our aging military veterans.

It’s about enabling sick or disabled vets to share in a once-in-a-lifetime experience, CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez reported Monday.

It’s a really sweet use of virtual reality. We’ve heard of VR being used to help people get over phobias, surgeons plan operations, reduce chronic pain, and even recover from addiction.

But now VR can make sure aging vets aren’t left behind for annual trips to Washington to honor those who served.

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Every year, retired U.S. Navy Adm. Jim Hart leads hundreds of World War II, Korea, and Vietnam vets from Florida to Washington on a free one-day trip called Honor Flight. They visit the memorials built to honor those who served.

(credit: CBS2)

“They came home. There wasn’t a lot of fanfare. They have never really been honored for what they have done,” Adm. Hart said.

But with many vets now in their 80s and 90s, it’s difficult for some to make the trip. So Honor Flight teamed up with Hospice of St. Francis and with the help of virtual reality they’re making sure every veteran can experience the trip — even if it’s from their living room.

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John Schultz, who served in the Korean War, is 89 years old, has lung disease, and relies on an oxygen tank to breathe, making it impossible to fly. But with a 360-degree, 3D video of an Honor Flight trip uploaded to VR goggles, Schultz can take part without ever leaving the ground.

“Remarkable. The technology today is overwhelming,” Schultz said.

Schultz’s daughter said her father never talked about his service growing up.

“It’s kind of a memory that has been locked away, but it came out today and that was really special,” Audrey Robertson said.

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Schultz said the experience brought back some powerful emotions, like pride and grief.

“I lost friends. I had people dying right alongside me,” Schultz said.

“It’s somewhat cathartic in that it helps them get through the suffering and pain they are dealing with now,” Adm. Hart added.

It’s helping veterans like Schultz feel like he’s part of the tribute, even if it’s from a distance.

Honor Flight is a non-profit organization with chapters in 45 states, transporting thousands of veterans from all over the country to Washington, DC every year. But realize that for some vets, burying memories is how they’ve coped with painful war experiences and dredging them up may re-ignite that pain.

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