Welcoming home World War II veterans

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Amber Powell
  • 177th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
U.S. Air Force Airmen from the New Jersey Air National Guard came together with members of the local community May 19 to welcome home approximately 80 World War II veterans.

Members of the 177th Fighter Wing, who are in Florida for a deployment for training to work with Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater and Sector St. Petersburg, lined the halls of the airport, shaking hands and thanking the veterans returning home from a trip to Washington D.C.

"It's important to go because it shows respect," said Chief Master Sgt. Michael Jones, 177th Fighter Wing civil engineering chief enlisted manager. "They paved the way for us, so it was good for the younger generation to see that these were actual people ... knowing what they went through."

The veterans first walked from their gate in the airport passing military and community members, balloons, and welcome home signs that led to a live band, actors in vintage uniforms, and a photo opportunity to end the trip.

"It was humbling to be there," said Senior Airman Tom Ewald, from the 177th Fighter Wing's civil engineering structures shop. "I never thought I would get to see anything like that in my life. It was a once in a lifetime event and they deserved every bit of that."

"The veterans love seeing military people," said Nancy Stevens, a representative from the Honor Flight Network, a non-profit network that flies veterans to Washington D.C. to visit the war memorials honoring their service. "They love being able to talk and swap stories with them."