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Merchant served on the USS Diadon.

Vinton Navy veteran James Merchant was among those veterans who participated in the Eastern Iowa Honor Flight earlier this month. And although the flight happened during the final days of the government shutdown, Merchant said the veterans were able to see all of the memorials.

"It was nice," said Merchant, who encourages other veterans to make the trip.

Merchant was in the U.S. Navy from 1957 to 1961. He served as a machinist's mate on the USS Diodon (SS-349) and the USS Red Fish (SS395).

Among Merchant's favorite moments was seeing the Iwo Jima monument, which impressed the veterans with its huge size.

The new fountain at the Memorial was not in operation, and there were a few small piles of garbage, but other than that, said Merchant, the shutdown seemed to have no impact on the day.

The event ended with the traditional welcome home ceremony at the Eastern Iowa Airport, where veterans groups, Scouts and other organizations join veterans' family members in welcoming them back to Iowa and thanking them for their service.

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