Huntington residents greet Honor Flight returnees

Brooke Griffin, Reporter

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The fifth annual Honor Flight returned 81 veterans to Huntington Saturday night. Honor Flight Huntington takes a group of veterans to Washington D.C. every year to let them pay their respects to their fallen companions and those who served their country.

“I’ve been wanting to go for a while; to finally be able to pay my respects to those I fought with and many others before and after me is a true honor,” said Korean War veteran Leroy Johnson.

Several hundred people showed up bearing smiles and homemade signs at the Tri-State Airport to welcome the men and women back home. The C-K Alumni Band played in the time leading up to their arrival.

As the flickering lights of the plane came closer, tears could be seen in the eyes of those who served and their loved ones.

“My grandpa served in Vietnam,” said Melissa Adkins, a veteran’s loved one. “There is nothing in this world that I am more proud of because he put his life on the line every day in order for me to stand here able to hug him today.”

As the veterans filed off of the plane through the color guard and welcoming personnel, they were welcomed with hugs, handshakes and a “thank you” from several people in the lines leading to the building doors.

“Seeing so many people show up just to welcome us home is humbling and exciting all in one,” said Vietnam veteran Luke Hildebrand. “I never expected to look out the window of the plane and see dozens of flags waving and people I have never met before trying to shake my hand.”

Before the Honor Flight passengers left for the night with their loved ones, they were given photo books depicting their time in Washington to keep the memories alive for decades to come.

“I’m grateful and blessed,” said Lou Armstrong, a Korean War veteran. “Being able to take this trip to pay my respects to those who were not fortunate enough to see their families again was something I have felt for a long time that I needed to do. When I came home from war and came home today, people thanked me for my service, but I’m not the one who deserves to be thanked, the people that sacrificed their lives are the true heroes.”

Honor Flight Huntington flies veterans to Washington once a year at no personal cost.

Brooke Griffin can be contacted at [email protected]

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