The second Honor Flight of the weekend returned late Saturday night. For many veterans, it's the first and possibly only chance to see the memorials honoring their service. The veterans were beaming from the time the plane took off to when it touched back down in Moline. But what they got next was something many never expected.
Their homecoming was a true heroes welcome. Hundreds greeted them inside the terminal: family, friends, Honor Guard, and complete strangers. They cheered, held signs, and waved flags. The veterans made their way through the crowd, getting hand shakes and hugs. They heard over and over people saying, “welcome home,” and, “thank you for your service.” Many in the crowd say the appreciation is long overdue for those who served decades ago. For most of the veterans it brought smiles to their faces and tears to their eyes.
“It's amazing and well you can't say it in words,” said Leland Chandler, an ex P.O.W. in World War II.
“He said they didn't do this 60-some years ago so he was beaming from ear to ear,” said Janet Conner, there to greet her veteran father.
“Wonderful, absolutely wonderful. You know, it's kind of like a final reward in a way,” said Robert Soesbe, a World War II veteran.
Saturday's flight had 165 veterans, the biggest group to go from the Quad Cities so far. This weekend also marked more than 38,000 veterans to make it to their memorial thanks to the national Honor Flight program.