GRAPEVINE (CBSDFW.COM) - A nationally-recognized volunteer program for greeting returning soldiers at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport is celebrating a birthday on Wednesday. The ‘Welcome Home a Hero’ program has been cheering on military members for seven years, and a special ceremony in Terminal D paid tribute to the scores of volunteers who make it all happen.
Over the past seven years, the volunteer program has welcomed hundreds of thousands of soldiers home as they returned from service in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait. Since the program’s inception, every single military flight arriving at DFW Airport has been met with community volunteers applauding, waving flags, showing their appreciation and offering up a smile.
The program has been recognized on a national level for outstanding community service, and even the Pentagon has taken notice.
The big seven-year celebration, to honor the volunteers who made the program a success, took place after volunteers welcomed home yet another plane-load of soldiers, naturally.
Army Sergeant Sarah Craig was one of those passing through the airport. She says the program is “awesome” and welcomed as she returns from her deployment in Kuwait. “It feels good to be home, take a break, recharge,” said Craig. “[I’m] going home to see my husband and my dog; just relax a little bit.”
As 180 soldiers arrived, the Knighton family from Euless was among those waiting. Haley Knighton was excited to welcome home her brother, Army PFC Jason Knighton. The greeting was even more special, since standing next to Haley was her other brother, Justin, who is also home from the Navy.
“We don’t get to see them ever at the same time,” Haley said enthusiastically. “This will be the first time in like two years.”
Justin will have only a brief visit with the family as he is set to soon head back to service on an aircraft carrier. “I’m actually leaving on my second one [tour] in July.” As for seeing his brother again Justin said, “Since he’s been to boot camp this will be the second time I’ve ever seen him.”
Among those greeting the troops was former Air Force pilot and Dallas Cowboy Chad Hennings who said being a part of the Welcome Home a Hero Program means a lot to him. “Oh, it’s special, because I know what it’s like to be away from family, for long separations, in a conflict. To see these young kids faces, to greet their dad when they come in; it’s special.”
Earlier this year, former President George W. Bush and former first lady Laura Bush served as volunteer Welcome Home a Hero greeters, and program organizers are always looking for more North Texans to help out. If you or your organization are interested in volunteering, click here to learn more information.