Local News

Triangle veterans return to heroes' welcome

Posted May 4, 2011
Updated May 5, 2011

— Hundreds gathered at Raleigh Durham International Airport Wednesday evening to give a heroes' welcome to Triangle veterans who participated in the Flight of Honor to Washington, D.C. 

About 200 North Carolina veterans from World War II and other wars visited the national memorials built in their honor on a daylong trip to the nation's capital. 

Family members, tourists and Sens. Richard Burr and Kay Hagan greeted the veterans when they arrived at the National WWII memorial Memorial.

In wheelchairs and on foot, they made their way to the column where North Carolina is etched in stone for a plaque presentation.

"The reaction of the world to us today is something that I had never expected," said Ruby Brooks, who served as a Navy nurse in WWII.

flight of honor Triangle vets return to heroes' welcome

While in the nation's capital, Veterans also toured the Korean War, Vietnam War, Iwo Jima and Air Force memorials, and got an exclusive look at vintage aircraft at the Smithsonian museum.

At the national Air Force memorial, an American flag was presented to 95-year-old John Sloan, the oldest veteran to make the trip.

"It was a very unexpected honor and I certainly appreciate it," Sloan said.  

For many veterans, seeing the memorials reconnects them to a past they'll never forget. More than six decades have passed since Eugene Lee stormed the beaches of Normandy. NC Flight of Honor, May 4, 2011 May 4, 2011, Flight of Honor

"I was scared. I was scared to death, but I made it," he said.

On Wednesday morning, Gov. Bev Perdue was on hand to send off the veterans from Raleigh-Durham International Airport.

"They believe so much in democracy and in America and in a free world that they risked everything," Perdue said. "You can't talk about patriotism without seeing these people."

Triangle Flight of Honor - May 4, 2011 Web only: Triangle vets visit WWII memorial

Active Marines, members of the Patriot Guard Riders and volunteers saluted the veterans as they arrived and helped them through the airport. Firefighters shot water cannons over their plane as it took off.

"Some of the folks today will see the names of people they served with (on the monuments)," Perdue said. "Others will just celebrate they ability they've had to live a life in America."

The veterans returned to a homecoming celebration in the atrium at RDU around 7:30 p.m.

Jessica Jackson and her son drove from North Carolina to the memorial so she could take the tour with her 90-year-old grandfather, James Hood. She felt it was a great way to know what he's been through. The two then drove back so they could welcome the veteran home at RDU along with the rest of the family.

James Hood said the homecoming was nothing like what he received when he came home from the war and went straight to work on a farm. With tears in his eyes, he said he knew exactly what freedom means – having his family and a legacy of love.

"I knew everyone of them loved me, but they put an extra thing on it tonight," he said. 

The Triangle Flight of Honor nonprofit raises funds to provide the daylong trips to D.C. at no cost to veterans.


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  • ashleighwestbrook May 5, 2011

    My 90 year old grandfather, James Hood, was on this flight. I am so proud of him and all the other Veterans. Some of my family and i were blessed to be able to go to Washington and be with him. It was very emotional and just remembering all of the stories he has told us over the years, but now they mean that much more to me because i got the chance to experience this with him. We also made it back for the homecoming and if you ever get the chance to go, you need to. WELCOME HOME!!

  • MajorLeagueinfidel May 5, 2011

    This is such a tremendous program and the news story doesn't even touch the depth of appreciation these vets have for the opportunity to go. When you meet them individually and hear the stories and see the emotion behind it you start to understand just a little. I hope this program continues to expand and include more WWII vets. I was with one of my assigned vets an Infantrymen in the 29th Inf. Division and he smiled and said "we never got this when we came home, this is real nice" Next time go to RDU Airport and greet them when they return from the flight, you won't regret it and you'll go home happy and proud of this great country!

  • IBleedRedandWhite May 5, 2011

    I had the pleasure and honor of attending the welcome home celebration last night at RDU. All I have to say is if you get a chance to go, do it! It was awesome! All of the vets are so humbled by their experience and the large group present to welcome them back.

    Wish the troops serving overseas came home in large groups through commercial airports so we could do this for them too!

  • bblakely May 4, 2011

    We have one of our Chaplain Associates, Edward Conklin that is taking this flight, he is 89 years old and was so excited. Thank you for this honor to our veterans. We appreciate all they did for our country. Brenda, Pinehurst, NC

  • rcjc76 May 4, 2011

    The photo above with Gov. Perdue is of my Dad, Holt Thornton,(on the right) a belly gunner on B-24 bomber raids over the oil fields of Ploesti, Romania during WWII. Thanks to Flight of Honor for this opportunity-May God Bless America!
    Richard Thornton

  • crisway May 4, 2011

    I have an uncle who will be 97 on June 1st, and he is a WWII Veteran. I would love for him to be able to make this trip! He lives in Elizabeth City, NC. Who can I contact to arrange this?

  • NC Reader May 4, 2011

    aj -- It may be a story "getting old" to you, but I read every one of these articles and many others do as well. I think that it is wonderful that our young people are hearing so much about the WWII veterans. All too soon they will be gone, and their loss will be great.

  • citizensoldier16 May 4, 2011

    Thank you all for your service. I am proud and humbled to serve in your footsteps.

  • phoebelouise May 4, 2011


  • cindybramlett May 4, 2011

    My Dad is on this flight! I think it is great how North Carolina is helping the WWII vets get to DC and see their monument. I know my Dad was so looking forward to the trip. Thanks to all who make this possible for our Vets God Bless you.
    A very proud daughter!!!!!