Friends and family waited anxiously outside the Marriott Hotel Tuesday night to welcome home 110 veterans.
Escorted by motorcyclists and police officers, the World War II, Vietnam and Korean War veterans were returning from the 50th Central Missouri Honor Flight.
The 50th Central Missouri Honor Flight landed late Tuesday after a trip to Washington, D.C. Honor Flight is a nonprofit organization that flies veterans to Washington to see their respective war memorials for free, according to Central Missouri Honor Flight’s website. The group has flown six groups to Washington in 2017; Tuesday night’s flight was the last of the year.
Jay Loafman and Joe Gay are both Vietnam veterans. Loafman said the memorial showed what the country meant to him, while Gay said the memorial did the war justice.
“They were fantastic,” Gay said. “I am very proud.”
Vietnam veteran Joe Hoelscher said the Korean monument was his favorite.
“Even though I am a Vietnam veteran, I thought the Korean monument was the coolest one I saw out there,” Hoelscher said.
On the flight back, the veterans received letters from friends and family during a “mail call.”
Hoelscher said the letters from friends filled his heart.
“It brings tears to your eyes,” Hoelscher said. “That’s the only thing I can say.”