Sixty-six World War 2 veterans of Fresno, California received a hero’s welcome after spending two days in the nation’s capital. The vets were flown to several monuments built in their honor in Washington D.C. as part of The Honor Flight Network, a non-profit dedicated to transporting America’s veterans to monuments built to pay tribute to their sacrifices and bravery. Fresno Yosemite International Airport was packed to the brim with people hoping to give these WWII and Korean war veterans the welcome of a lifetime.
The plane arrived approximately 30 minutes late, but that didn’t put a damper on the veteran’s moods. The airport was packed as far as the eye could see with patriotic Americans waiting to cheer on the veterans return. The turnout was so large that many veterans were surprised, and even overwhelmed, by the support they received. Korean War veteran Edward Pestana told reporters:
“I suspected 24 to 25 people out there, But, geez, this is overwhelming.”
Experience the welcome for yourself thanks to this first-person GoPro footage provided by one of the veterans, Wayne Locher.
The vets had just spent the past 48 hours touring several monuments built in their honor. The mood fluctuated between joy and melancholy as the vets reminisced on their time in the service and the friends they lost along along the way. Locher, featured in the video above, stated that he couldn’t help but feel emotional while viewing the Korean War memorial. He stated:
“The Korean Memorial, it made me make tears in my eyes, I had it made, a lot of them didn’t.”
Family of the veterans and community figures all gathered to celebrate these men’s accomplishments. The NAS Lemoore sailors attended the event to pay tribute and several family members shared photos online.
— Fresno Yosemite Int. (@FresnoAirport) June 30, 2016
— Zachary Kramer (@zacharykramer) June 30, 2016
— Janelle Bludau (@janellebludau) June 30, 2016
The massive turnout is a reminder that, while WWII and the Korean war may seem like distant history, these events are still affecting the lives of many Americans alive today.