BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - It was a celebration where America's greatest generation was the guest of honor. The Mississippi Gulf Coast Honor Flight organized a banquet on Saturday that reunited the veterans from all seven trips. The vets said their memories from the Washington D.C. trip are ones they will always cherish.
From school children to the Governor, Mississippians wanted World War II veterans to know their service and sacrifice are appreciated.
"You have done so much for so many. We just simply say thank you and pray, as I know they will, this next generation of war fighters be equally as brave and determined and courageous," said Governor Phil Bryant.
The reunion honored the 592 veterans who took the Honor Flight to Washington D.C. On one of those trips, the world watched as vets didn't let barricades from the federal government shutdown keep them out of the World War II Memorial.
"Like a lot of Mississippians, I watched that on TV," said Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann.
"The only thing that bothered me about that was you stopped at the memorial and didn't go up to the Capitol."
The veterans said the Honor Flight was a wonderful experience.
"I felt like I was at home with them. It's the greatest bunch of guys that you would ever want to get together with," said veteran Charlie Brock of Biloxi.
"It was wonderful, crazy," said Wilfred Calliavet, a veteran from Gulfport.
"Had a lot of fun with all the people there taking care of us, joking, everybody telling stories. Some of it exaggerated a little bit but it was great."
Also in the audience were hundreds of volunteers who went as helpers.
"It meant a lot to me because of my father-in-law," said Milton Pugh.
"I wanted him to see the memorial, also for me to see it because my father had served in World War II."
Honor Flight officials are proud of what the program did for veterans, and are thankful for the generous hearts that made it possible.
"We have a generous people in Mississippi and we've always supported our military well," said Wayne Lennup, Honor Flight Board member.
"We have a great respect for our elderly. Our World War II vets are 84, 85 and up. They are our senior veterans and to see that response, it solidifies the goodness in Mississippi."
Organizers said over 1,000 people attended the reunion. Congressman Steven Palazzo was also among the speakers.