They were only gone for the day, but the welcome they received would have made some believe they just returned from years at war.
With patriotic music blaring from DJ speakers and many American flags waving in the air filled with cheers and applause, the final Honor Flight exclusively for World War II veterans returned to Hannibal’s Quality Inn & Suites.
A total of 28 World War II veterans and their chaperones came back after spending the day in Washington, D.C. to view the World War II Memorial. Future Honor Flights will start to include World War II and Korean War veterans. The trip gives the former servicemen and women an opportunity to see the memorials of the wars they served in.
“It was one of the best I’ve ever seen,” Navy sailor Walder Anderson of Carthage, Ill., said. “I loved the memorial.”
Plenty of memories were brought back for the former quartermaster. He saw his share of fighting in the Pacific.
“I joined because of Pearl Harbor. Everybody else was joining, so I decided to join. The Army got after me, so I joined the Navy. You didn’t have to crawl through mud and we got good food in the Navy,” Anderson said. “One time we were getting depth-charged and it was pretty close. It was knocking light bulbs out of the sockets. Got the Bibles out and prayed.”
Hannibal native George Green was also among the returning veterans. He too joined the Navy after Pearl Harbor and was stationed all along the Pacific as a gunner’s mate.
“Monstrous,” Green said of the World War II Memorial. “It’s wonderful, is all I can say.”
The local American Red Cross assisted with the event and provided hot chocolate and snacks as everyone waited for the veterans to arrive under an escort of 200 motorcyclists.
The thunderous roar revved up the crowd and when the charter bus pulled in, a red carpet was laid out for all the veterans to walk down, shake hands and hear plenty of people say, “Thank you.”