PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — More than 60 veterans got a hero's welcome home after they traveled to Washington, D.C., on an honor flight Saturday.
It was the Southeast Honor Flight's first trip since the pandemic began.
The veterans said they were excited and appreciative of the homecoming that some said they never received after returning home from war.
More than 60 veterans received thanks after landing Saturday night at Palm Beach International Airport after taking part in Saturday’s honor flight.
Hobart Smith, a Marine Corps veteran from Tequesta, was among them.
"So patriotic, everybody. You see the parade come in through here? Wow. I never thought it would be possible at all. It never happened. People are so wonderful to welcome us back like this," Smith said.
The honor flight is a one-day mission to visit Washington D.C., giving veterans tours of the war memorials and other military sites at no cost as a way to show appreciation to them.
Some of the veterans on Saturday's trip served in the Korean and Vietnam wars, while others served during World War II. Among those were Carmin Yannotta, who served alongside General George S. Patton.
"I have been just so blessed that two buddies are still buried over there, and I made it. I got to Honor Flight. I didn't want to go, but my daughter signed me up. I wanted to forget about the war," Yannotta said. "It's such an outstanding feeling of people thanking you for your service."
Paul Meese of Stuart, who was in Air Force Security, said it was one of the most emotional days of his life.
"It's been like this all day from the time we left West Palm this morning at 5 o'clock. It's just been phenomenal," Meese said. "It brings back a lot of memories of the Vietnam era for me. I just can't thank everyone. It was just absolutely fabulous."
It was a special moment that these veterans and their families will never forget.
"That was awesome. We didn't get that coming back, when I came back from Vietnam. But this made up for it," said James Walter, who was in the Air Force.
Plans for next year's honor flights are already in the works for April and May.