Hero’s Welcome Given To Final Military R&R Flight At DFW

DFW AIRPORT (CBSDFW.COM) – The final R&R flight has arrived at DFW Airport, ending eight years of troops funneling through the airport en route home from two wars.

More than one hundred people crowded the roped off exit way where the service members entered Terminal D.

“I’m disappointed it’s the last one, but I’m glad we were able to come,” said Amy Sanderson, who brought her children to see the event.

A lot of people felt the same way.

That’s why there was such a large crowd waiting as the last flight taxied under a cascade of welcoming water from a fire truck.

But in the crowd there were veterans who have made the greeting service members their DAILY mission — even when there weren’t crowds to say ‘welcome home.’

“There’s no such a thing as ‘I had a bad day’ or ‘I can’t go, I’ve got a bad hair day,'” said Vietnam veteran Bill DeLeon. “These guys are here every day, so why can’t we be here?”

“It’s warm to see this many people,” said James Hackrott, an Army veteran who served in the 70’s. “But if there’s just one person to greet the troops, that’s still a great day.”

“Welcome home Specialist!” DeLeon said as he grabbed the hand of a camouflage clad soldier carrying a large backpack.

Every handshake, every hug is a welcome home the older veterans never received.

“I was called a baby killer and spit on,” said Hackrott, who served in Korea but received the same disdain as veterans returning from combat in Vietnam. “I’m here for that. Erase those memories.”

“Our motto is ‘never again,'” said DeLeon. “Never will we let it happen again.”

And through 8-years of handshakes, the veterans and volunteers have welcomed home more than 900,000 service members.

They’ve seen a father hold his son for the first time.  “The sergeant came through and she goes ‘here’s your son’ and he grabbed it,” Hackrott recalled, mimicking the father cradling the child in his arms. “We felt it deep. He had everybody crying. I’ll never forget that day. Never.”

The R&R flights will now go to Atlanta.

But the veterans here built happy homecoming memories for the service members coming home, and for themselves.

“Heartwarming,” DeLeon said of the last arrival. “There was a couple of them with tears in their eyes. I was beginning to get teary!”

“I’m going to miss this,” Hackrott said. “I really I am. I’ve got some great friends out of here. And I’ve seen some great, great family reunions that no one could understand.”

The Welcome Home a Hero group has made a list of suggested ways to keep up support.  Click here to see the list.

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  • Frank Watkins

    I walked through D/FW International Airport, when I came home on mid tour leave (R&R) in 2010. Same door, same walk as you see in this video. This response was TOTALLY unexpected, appreciated and humbling. The walk through the terminal was surreal. As we walked, nearly 300 of us, we were treated to the warmest reception I could have possibly have imagined. Not just was the DF/W community there giving us their support, but all the civilians (nearly all of them) that were traveling and waiting for their own flights, also stood up and cheered for every single person that walked through the terminal as we were on our way to baggage claim. (And it seemed like a very very long walk I must tell you!) All of this just blew us away. But I can tell you, I, along with allot of my fellow troops, were a bit uncomfortable with all the attention. We did not know how to react.
    Please don’t get me wrong as we loved it!! We just were not expecting anything of the sort. We talked about it after we got to the baggage claim area and were in total shock as to the reaction!

    When I watched this video, I still feel the warmth and love that nearly brought me to tears that day. I still cannot watch this video without my eyes getting all teary and a lump in my throat.

    A BIG Thank You to the DF/W Community as well as all the people in the terminal for making us feel welcomed and starting our, at least my, mid tour leave off with such a wonderful reception! Boy, did it feel great to back in the states!

    THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart,
    SSG Frank Watkins B Co. 640th ASB
    And from ALL the troops that enjoyed such a reception!

  • M. Haber

    I echo the comments of SSG Watkins above. I too was completely surprised and overwhelmed in Aug of 2010 on my arrival at DFW. The memory of all those wonderful people welcoming us back for R&R will stay with me for the rest of my life! Thank You to all who participated in this great tradition over the years! You have my greatest admiration and respect.

    A greatful Air Force Colonel

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