Veterans touch down to hero’s welcome after 18th Central Valley Honor Flight

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Local veterans were celebrated Thursday after returning from an unforgettable trip to the nation’s capitol. 

Men and women on the 18th Central Valley Honor Flight received a hero’s welcome at Fresno Yosemite International Airport.

“They didn’t get a good reception when they came back years ago. So we’re trying to make up for it now,” Doug McHatton said. 

“I think the guys on the plane are really going to be surprised when they get off and see everybody that’s here,” Shirley Bridges said. 

The veterans were welcomed by a band, signs and loud cheering. 

Bridges waited patiently for four hours to greet her husband Ken.

“It humbles you. You know? I never thought I (did anything that) warranted going on this trip. I thought I didn’t do anything spectacular you know?,” Ken said. 

But the crowds clearly disagreed. The airport was packed with people waiting to welcome the 70 valley veterans home
The trip of a lifetime for many…

“It was a great trip. Best trip I’ve ever had in my entire life bar none,” Joe Wayne Rowell a Korean War veteran said. 

The program is funded completely by donations and gives World War II, Korean War and Vietnam veterans a chance to see memorials built in their honor.

“I would say the Korean wall (was the highlight) for me. You know, you see your comrades that are there on the wall. There are 50,000 of them,” Rowell said. 

After three days of reflecting on the past, this homecoming brought one more reminder.

“There’s still a lot of people that think a lot of us in this country,” Ken said. 

Since the first flight in 2013 more than a thousand Central Valley veterans have been able to go on the honor flight.

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