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Flag-waving crowd packs Blue Grass Airport and welcomes veterans home from Honor Flight to Washington, D.C.

Darrell Waterfill of Harrodsburg and Ben Kurtz of Lexington met 65 other Kentucky veterans at Blue Grass Airport early on the morning of September 16, all participating in a one-day Honor Flight.

The veterans participated in a one-day tour of war memorials in the nation’s capital. This was the seventh Honor Flight sponsored by Blue Grass Energy and Kentucky’s Touchstone Energy Cooperatives. The mission was coordinated by Winchester-based Honor Flight Kentucky.

Several of the veterans, who served during World War II, Korea, and Vietnam, said it was the best day of their lives.

“This was the most wonderful thing I’ve ever been to,” said Darrell Waterfill. “It meant the world to me as a Vietnam veteran. It showed people cared about our fight over there.”

As a bagpipe band led the returning veterans through the Lexington terminal, more than 1,500 family members and patriotic citizens waved “Welcome Home” signs and shook their hands.

Throughout the day, people greeted the veterans with smiles, requests for photos and many thanks for their sacrifices in the cause of freedom.

When the veterans arrived at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport that morning, a gauntlet of cheerleaders, football players, and other citizens clapped as a chorus from the U.S. Military Academy sang patriotic songs.

“The experience at the airport was unbelievable,” commented Waterfill.

After boarding three buses, a police escort cleared highway traffic and took them directly to the Air Force Memorial and the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial.

At the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery, the group watched the changing of the guard and participated in an emotional wreath-laying ceremony.

The group also toured memorials dedicated to the veterans of World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. Representing 36 Kentucky counties, the veterans included 19 from World War II, 36 from Korea, and 12 from Vietnam.

“The statues at the Korean memorial looked just like we did as soldiers in Vietnam,” said Waterfill. “That was us right there.”

On the return flight to Lexington, the veterans were treated to a nostalgic “mail call,” receiving letters from home just as when they were young servicemen. Friends, family, school children, electric co-op employees, church groups, and many others wrote letters and sent cards that helped make the day memorable.

They received a heroes’ welcome home that night from patriotic, flag-waving citizens who filled the entire terminal at Lexington’s Blue Grass Airport.

“The Honor Flight trip was such a blessing,” concluded Waterfill.

 

Veteran Ben Kurtz leaving to board his Honor Flight.
Veteran Ben Kurtz leaving to board his Honor Flight.

 
 

 

Veteran Darrell Waterfill at the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Veteran Darrell Waterfill at the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C.

 

 

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