Mike “Hoss” Cartwright of Frankfort and Woody Sparks of Nicholasville along with 70 other Kentucky veterans received a heroes’ welcome home the night of September 21st from patriotic, flag-waving citizens who filled the entire terminal at Lexington’s Bluegrass Airport.
The veterans participated in a one-day tour of war memorials in the nation’s capital. This was the ninth Honor Flight sponsored by Blue Grass Energy and Kentucky’s Touchstone Energy Cooperatives. The mission was coordinated by Winchester-based Honor Flight Kentucky.
When asked about his trip, Mr. Cartwright, an Air Force veteran who served during the Vietnam War, responded, “The day was perfect. We were treated like royalty.”
Mr. Sparks had a similar response. “Awesome! Awesome is the only word that fits.”
Following an early-morning flight from Lexington, the group was greeted at Reagan Washington National Airport by a cheering crowd and a U.S. Military Academy chorus serenading them with patriotic songs. A police escort then guided the group’s buses to stops that included the Air Force Memorial, Women in Military Service for America Memorial and the Marine Corps War 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.
Sparks was asked to participate. “I was asked to participate in the Changing of the Guard ceremony. That was something special,” he commented.
The Honor Flight participants also visited memorials dedicated to the veterans from the Korean War and the Vietnam War. Throughout the day, the veterans were greeted with smiles, photo requests and thanks for their service.
A homecoming reception, which Blue Grass Energy helped coordinate, capped off the jam-packed day of activities. Led by a bagpipe band, returning veterans paraded through the Lexington airport terminal as family and friends clapped and shouted welcomes, waved flags and shook their hands.
“I couldn’t believe the welcome home we got in Washington, D.C. and again in Lexington when we got back. What a blessing to have had this honorable experience,” remarked Cartwright.