Honor Flight veterans find 400 greeters at late-night return - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Honor Flight veterans find 400 greeters at late-night return

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DUBUQUE (KWWL) -

Inside Dubuque's Grand River Center Monday night, anticipation and pride swelled among the more than 400 people awaiting their American heroes.

On that night, half of the nearly 180 veterans going to Washington DC this week as part of the seventh and eighth Honor Flights of Greater Dubuque returned from their whirlwind tour of the nation's capital. They had gathered at the Grand River Center at 5 a.m. that very morning for their departure.

Outside the Grand River Center Monday around 11 p.m., the Patriot Guard motorcyclists roared into the parking lot, leading the three buses carrying the WWII and Korean War veterans, plus their guardians -- the support people accompanying the vets.

Shouts of "Welcome home!" rang through the parking lot and then the Grand River Center as the weary but happy veterans made their way inside to reunite with their loved ones.

"I'm so amazed at how all these people who volunteered, take their time to volunteer, to greet us when we leave here, greet us in Washington, D.C., and greet us when we come back," veteran Joseph Lesher said.

In their half-day tour of Washington, the veterans see the different war memorials and other national monuments.

"Went to one place so fast and went the next place. If I had my pictures all developed I could maybe reminisce a little more as to what I all saw," veteran Hank Brunsman said, adding with a laugh, "Old age -- you forget things."

"Probably what sticks with me the most is the receptions that we got at every place we went," veterans Dale Hoffman said. "Couldn't believe the greetings we got. It was just out of this world."

On the flight back to Dubuque, veterans had mail call, where they received letters of thanks from friends, family members and even complete strangers.

"My niece is a teacher up by Minneapolis. Her whole class sent me a letter thanking the service," Brunsman said, tearing up. "It was great."

It was a day they'll never forget and a homecoming they'll always remember.

Honor Flights are at no cost to the veterans, most of whom have never seen their war's memorial.

People wishing to welcome home Tuesday's Honor Flight veterans can gather at the Grand River Center around 10:15 p.m.

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