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

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(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Joel Thomas
Joel is an Emmy Award winning journalist with more than 15 year...
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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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