GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - What a moving sight, a show of love and respect. Hundreds gathered at Gulfport Biloxi Regional Airport Tuesday night.
They came to welcome back the 91 Mississippi World War II veterans back to the Gulf Coast. Those veterans made the trip to Washington, DC aboard the MS Gulf Coast Honor Flight.
Each time there's an honor flight, people gather to cheer and thank the veterans for their service.
"I heard they had a wonderful time and I'm just coming to see my grandpa," Maddy Wiltz said as she waited for the return of her grandfather, who is a WWII veteran.
"If it hadn't been for this group of men, we wouldn't be here today," said the wife of one of the veterans onboard the Honor Flight.
There's always a strong feeling of pride at the honor flight homecomings. As the veterans walked or were wheeled through the airport with their escorts, they were greeted with endless applause.
WWII veteran Cecil Nations said seeing the crowd and shaking hands with them made him feel great. But the overall feeling at this gathering was different because the men and women on of the 6th Honor Flight almost didn't see the monuments.
"When we pulled the buses up to the memorial, we had no idea whether we would get to go in or not," Honor Flight volunteer Mark Walton said.
"We had a game plan to go by in case we couldn't go to some of the memorials," Honor Flight volunteer Lori Turner said.
But they got in most sites, despite the signs and yellow tape.
"This is what I took when I helped Palazzo and his boys take the barricade down," said guardian Cat Aguda said holding the yellow police tape he took down from one of the memorials.
"We went up there to honor the veterans. It wasn't about politics or anything like that. It's just about these great men that did great things for us," Honor flight medical staff member David Wolf said.
Their success in getting through made these gatherers all the more thrilled to meet the World War II veterans who not only fought for our country, but for a chance to see the memorial created in their honor.
"They deserve it. It was their memorial everything should have been open for them," said Larry Byrd, the son of a WWII veteran.
Organizers said this Honor Flight, which was free for veterans, cost $90,000. There were four female veterans onboard this flight; the rest were men.
The Honor Flight program in Mississippi is planning a 7th Honor Flight. To learn how you can volunteer or donate, visit: http://www.mgchonorflight.org/