Flag-waving crowd packs Blue Grass Airport to welcome home Honor Flight veterans
Seventy-two Kentucky veterans received a heroes’ welcome home on Sept. 21 from patriotic, flag-waving citizens who filled the entire terminal at Lexington’s Blue Grass Airport.
The veterans, who served during World War II, the Korean War, the Cold War or the Vietnam War, participated in a one-day tour of their war memorials in the nation’s capital. This was the ninth Honor Flight sponsored by Kentucky’s Touchstone Energy Cooperatives. The mission was coordinated by Winchester-based Honor Flight Kentucky.
The 2019 contingent included 99-year-old World War II Army veteran Henry C. Ledford of Clay County, who turned 100 years old on Sunday. The trip was his first time ever traveling by air and first time he had seen the World War II Memorial honoring him and 16 million Americans who served in the war.
“It was wonderful,” said Ledford. “It was the best thing I’ve ever had in my life.”
As a bagpipe band led the returning veterans through the Lexington terminal, more than 1,500 family members and patriotic citizens waved “Welcome Home” signs and shook their hands.
Throughout the day, people greeted the veterans with smiles, requests for photos and many thanks for their sacrifices. They visited the Air Force Memorial, the Women in Military Service for America Memorial, as well as memorials to the Korean War and the Vietnam War. At the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery, the group watched the changing of the guard and participated in an emotional wreath-laying ceremony.
At the Vietnam Memorial, Joel Peyton, a 77-year-old Army veteran from Corbin, found the names of soldiers from his unit who were killed in action. Peyton was overwhelmed by the welcome-home reception in Lexington.
“I couldn’t believe it,” he said. “I was blown out of the water.”