GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - About 70 World War II veterans flew on the very last honor flight out of Mississippi on Tuesday. In usual fashion, the veterans were greeted at the Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport to show their appreciation to our nation's greatest generation.
As the plane carrying the World War II veterans landed, soldiers stood at attention and a large American flag waved above the tarmac. Although the sight outside was incredible, it didn't beat the eager crowd awaiting the veterans on the inside.
Lindsey Valenti said the scene made her proud to be an American.
"I don't know if that's kind of cliche, but it's just very overwhelming. It definitely gives you chills," said Valenti.
Proud family members couldn't wait to greet their loved ones, but the crowd was made up of more than just family. Hundreds of military men and women, like Jarriet White, were there to show their appreciation as well.
"Words can't express the opportunity, the gratefulness that I feel. They are truly the greatest generation. It's just an honor for us to be able to participate," said White.
White adds that it's a welcome home these veterans never really received.
"We see this when we return home from Iraq and Afghanistan, but we need to pay those guys, the greatest generation... homage as well," said White.
This group may not have pushed past barricades like the last honor flight, but they were still very special. Uriah Payne said he snuck into the military before he was even 18.
"I went in the Navy when I was 15 years old. 15 years old, four months, and 22 days, and I enjoyed every minute of it," said Payne.
The veterans had a non-stop day, leaving the airport at 7:00am, visiting three memorials, and returning to South Mississippi around 8:00p.m., but Payne says coming back to such excitement is keeping him going.
"I wasn't expecting this welcome. I am shocked. It I'm not tired. I'm overjoyed," said Payne
Over the years, nearly 700 veterans have had the opportunity to ride Mississippi's honor flight.