CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - Eastern Iowa welcomed home 82 of its WWII and Korean War veterans, Tuesday evening. The group spent the day touring national monuments in Washington D.C. as part of an honor flight.
Veterans departed in the early a.m. hours and returned around 11 p.m. They were greeted at the Eastern Iowa Airport by a massive crowd.
"I've never seen anything like it," said Korean War Veteran John Coyle.
Easily, 400 to 500 people showed up, from eight counties to welcome veterans home. That may seem like a lot, but flight organizers said it's a pretty typical turnout.
"[People] are realizing the sacrifice that their veterans made," said George Ricky, the flight's coordinator.
Some in attendance were grandkids, some were sons and daughters, some were fellow service men and women who said they showed up to make sure veterans have a warm welcome home at least once in their lives.
"I was in Vietnam. When I came home we didn't get the welcome like this. So, these guys, there's not many of them left anymore, and it's a great honor," said Dennis Kendrick, from Marion.
On their trip to D.C., veterans toured the WWII, Korean, and Vietnam war memorials, plus the Air Force, Marine Corps and FDR memorials. Veterans also stopped at Arlington National Cemetery for a wreath laying at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
It was a long trip and a lot to do in to a day, but veterans said they'll never forget it.
"It's out of this world. They really treated us like kings, I guess what you'd call it. This is something else here. I can't believe this," said Coyle.
The honor flight was funded by employees of the Quaker oats company in Cedar Rapids, plus parent company PepsiCo.