WASHINGTON, D.C. – Long-deserved recognition found its way to 98 veterans more than once during Thursday’s Honor Flight.
From their arrival at the Quad City International Airport to landing in Virginia, returning to the airport and arriving back home, groups of all ages greeted veterans with warm welcomes and many thanks.
The men were deeply touched by each welcome. Many of the Vietnam veterans explained the impact, in comparison to how they were treated when they returned to the States after serving.
“Fifty years late,” was an expression good-naturedly muttered by multiple veterans throughout the day when asked about the greetings.
When they arrived in D.C, veterans were greeted by a group of kindergarteners who handed out snacks, gave lots of hugs and shook their hands. Local families and their children shook homemade signs and waved American flags.
James Melton, 66, of Erie, said having the children greet them was incredible. One little girl, probably 4 or 5, ran right up to him to give him a hug.
“That was the best part,” Melton said.
Tim Possley, 66, of Erie, and Melton took a picture with some of those kids, which was awesome, Possley said.
Richard Willhite, 74, or Rock Falls, also said being greeted as they got off the plane was fantastic.
“Especially seeing those young kids,” he said. “We think so much bad about the young kids but there are some good ones ... there are some good ones.”
“All the kids seeing us off and then when we landed, that really got to me,” said Tom Thompson, 70, of Rock Falls. “I enjoyed every minute of it.”
“When all those kids started clapping, I kind of got choked up,” said Curtis Smith, 66, of Sterling.
Peter Barajas Sr., 75, of Sterling, said he was really moved by the little kids and getting to shake their hands as they gave thanks.
“People thanking you for your service, it’s something I took for granted,” Barajas said.
The vets were thankful in return, especially to those who made the trip possible.
“That was just awesome” said Riley Bowers, 72, of Mount Morris.
“I don’t know how to explain it. It was just awesome.”