Locals give heroes welcome to honor flight veterans - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Locals give heroes welcome to honor flight veterans

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MARION, Ill -- An estimated 3,000 supporters attended the Welcome Home celebration at Veterans Airport Tuesday for the fourth group of honor flight veterans. When participants arrived back from a full day of touring war memorials in Washington D.C., they were greeted by locals waving American flags and homemade banners. 

As honor flight veterans walked by, supporters extended out a warm handshake and thanked them for their service. The large, patriotic reception left a lasting smile on the face of veterans. 

Supporters and volunteers arrived at the airport hours before the flight's arrival, enjoying bites from food trucks and entertainment by musicians Matt Basler, Kali Bonner, as well as, the JOY singers of from Marion First Baptist Church. 

Some supporters include members of SIU’s Army ROTC program like Troy Berghoefer. He’s been volunteering at honor flights for the past four years, starting in St. Louis and now locally.

"For us to show that support to them, probably means the world to them," Berghoefer explains. "I hope it means the world to me one day too." 

While Michael Page, also with Saluki ROTC, first showed his support when his grandfather was an honor flight participant, "I know he really appreciated seeing all the memorials down in DC. Something he hadn’t got to see before." 

Many supporters also included active military members and veterans like Mark Cosgrove, who served in the marines.

He played a special role in the Welcome Home Celebration as flag detail, representing three veterans who were supposed to take part in the honor flight but passed away beforehand, "We will bring them (flags) off the aircraft and we will present them to the family members." 

Cosgrove says the local support lets veterans know their sacrifices are appreciated, "Some veterans came back from either a combat situation or just war time service, and they didn’t receive any type of recognition."  

Organizers are finalizing plans for the next honor flight, which is expected to take place in April or May 2019. 

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