Hundreds gathered at the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport to welcome home 100 Vietnam War veterans who traveled to Washington, D.C. with Honor Flight Austin to visit the war memorials.
Louise Digrandi was one of those waiting for her husband, “It's glorious! I know they are going to appreciate the reception and they really deserve it, this is their homecoming they never had,” she said.
The welcome crew came prepared with special shirts, posters, balloons, and signs in hand.
“I think they're going to be very surprised and grateful,” said Jessica Janda who was waiting for her dad.
The group traveled to D.C. and visited the Arlington Cemetery, and the war memorials including the one that was built in their honor. “It was on his bucket list and something he's wanted to go see the memorials forever so this was absolutely amazing,” Digrandi said.
“It's been a dream of my dad’s to go to the Vietnam War memorial so yeah this is a real gift,” Janda said.
The homecoming was a much different one then when they got back from the war some 40 years ago.
Jim Swaney is a Vietnam Veteran, “It's been a long time coming. I'm just blown away. It's a 180-degrees from when we came home. When we came home it was hateful and now I am just amazed at the response that we have received and everything that's been given to us, it's just overwhelming,” he said.
“You just can't explain it. It was just great you know. Never in my life would it be like that. We're getting paid back for it now. A lot of good people they know what's happened and how we were treated and we're doing just great,” said Calvin Dockery a Vietnam Veteran who traveled with the group.
Docker said it was a trip of a lifetime and closure for some after seeing the names of more than 58,000 service men and women on the Vietnam wall and knowing the lives of those they served with were not lost in vain.
“Being here today it showed it was not in vain, that they people came out and supported us here at the airport and that was another very heartwarming episode of the whole trip. Coming home and being welcomed like,” Dockery said.