WWII veteran turns 88 with long-awaited flight

As the sun began to rise in the Florida sky and a crew of men bustled about on the ground around him, World War II veteran Lloyd Graham stood patiently waiting.

He hadn't just been waiting all morning for what was about to happen; Graham had been waiting his whole life.

For 88 years, he'd dreamed of riding in a hot air balloon, and this Friday morning was the morning it would finally come true.

"It's a real thrill, especially just being here with my daughter and her husband. I don't know; I can't explain it. It's a happy get-together," said Graham.

Graham's ride had been scheduled in the past, but bad weather kept him grounded. The constant waiting might have built nerves for some, but not for Graham. When you've been in the Navy, Graham says nothing makes you nervous.

"Whatever happens is going to happen," he said with a smile.

Graham worked as an airline mechanic during his years in the service. He spent time in Virginia, then in cities all across Florida, from Miami to Pensacola.

He loved flying, but said his balloon ride would give him something planes never could.

"Getting up there without any engines in your ears, and seeing nature down below," he said. "And seeing it with my daughter and her husband by my side."

The balloon took off shortly after 7 a.m., and after a short ride, landed back down.

Though it was brief, Graham said it peaceful, serene and quiet -- everything he'd dreamed of.

"I'm just really glad I got to do it," he added.