Missouri veterans return home from D.C. memorial tour
The group of Missouri veterans on the Franklin County Honor Flight trip had a long day flying to Washington D.C. and touring memorials like the World War II memorial.
"This is something I'll remember my whole life," said veteran Roy F. Wilde.
Their journey home, to some, was just as eventful.
"Very nice, being able to be with these guys," said veteran Richard Hatfield.
We met Hatfield in the first part of the Honor Flight series. He's a World War II veteran, and traveled with his grandson on the Honor Flight trip.
"Were you glad to have him along?," reporter Christy Millweard asked. "Yes I was," said Hatfield.
"Having the experience with someone I didn't know would have been great, but being it was my own grandfather just made it so much better," said Hatfield's grandson Anthony Futrell.
Futrell said he's glad he got to see how much this trip meant to the veterans, especially his grandfather.
"Going to the memorial, the World War II memorial itself, and seeing him reach out and touch, touch the memorial, you could kind and see in his eyes reflect on what he went through, it was pretty touching, very emotional," said Futrell.
While the veterans felt the best part of the day was over as they boarded the plane to head home, they didn't know the surprises that waited for them on the journey home.
The Honor Flight volunteers gathered letters from family, friends, and grade school kids. While in air, they passed them out, hoping to remind the veterans of the mail from home they might have gotten while at war.
The veterans read Heartland News some of the letters,
"Dear veteran, I would like to thank you for serving our country. I really appreciate it. I know it must be hard to leave home and fight, or help out in the war. I wish there were more people like you in the world because you are risking so much to help America. Thanks for all your hard work. Sincerely, Lexi"
The letters were positive reminders that those at home, were still thinking of them.
"Dear Veteran, thank you for what you have done for us, you are brave, caring, and unselfish. You risked your life for our country. You're amazing. Sincerely Jack"
"It's a nice appreciate of their affection for the people that are working for the country," said veteran Ray Frankenberg.
"To get letters are very encouraging and an old guy like me," said Wilde.
"I'm honored to get a letter, I haven't read it all yet but I'll get to it sooner or later," said veteran John Stamm. "But I enjoyed this trip, and I'm sure glad I was able to come."
As the group landed in St. Louis, again they were welcomed by local military.
But when they turned the corner, out of security, they saw a tunnel of American flags held by family, friends, and strangers.
"I was disappointed when we came up the ramp down there and I didn't see my relatives or anybody there and I thought well, you know this is, I don't know, but then we turned the corner there and all the flags and people clapping...it was just another one of those tear jerkers," said Emmett Becker.
"I appreciate it, because they appreciate it," said Donald Becker.
"I didn't know how immense it was going to be, and how many people were going to be here so it was really great to see that people would come out and honor my dad and my uncle and all the rest of the veterans," said Debbie Becker.
Debbie Becker said she was glad she took the trip with her dad and uncle.
"It was very moving, and to be able to be with them today it was, I was honored, and I will remember it for the rest of my life," said Debbie Becker.
"I sure did enjoy it, and the support we got everywhere we went was fantastic and knowing somebody cares, and it was just thrilling," said Emmett Becker.
The day of the Honor Flight is something these veterans and volunteers can look back on.
They can remember, even if they had never heard it before, people are thankful for their service, thankful for their sacrifice, and thankful for their devotion to the country.
The veterans can see it in the handshakes, kisses, and national memorials.
You can see Part 1 of the Honor Flight stories here.
You can see Part 2 of the Honor Flight stories here.
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