Hundreds rally in Chester County to welcome local veterans from Honor Flight

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Sunday, June 16, 2024
Hundreds rally in Chester County to welcome home local war veterans
Hundreds rally in Chester County to welcome home local war veterans

WEST CHESTER, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- Crowds of people gathered in Chester County on Saturday to celebrate the sacrifices of Philadelphia-area service members who served during World War II, the Vietnam War, and the Korean War.

Roughly 400 people from the community turned out to Saints Simon and Jude Parish Center in West Chester, officials say.

Many came with American flags and signs of support for about 150 veterans who were returning home from an Honor Flight to Washington D.C.

The annual trip is sponsored by the nonprofit organization Honor Flight Philadelphia, which takes veterans from our area to see national memorials that honor their service.

Those include the National World War II Memorial, the Korean War Veterans Memorial, and the Iwo Jima Memorial.

"They are just so emotional when they see it, especially the Vietnam vets because of the way they were treated when they came back home," said Cathy Domizio, treasurer for Honor Flight Philadelphia. "After that, we have a great homecoming for them."

Back at home, dozens of volunteers with Honor Flight Philadelphia were hard at work chopping veggies and setting tables as they prepared a sit-down dinner to honor the incoming veterans.

Just outside, several buses carrying the vets back from D.C. pulled into the parking lot led by a police escort and dozens of motorcycles in a brigade.

The crowd cheered the service men and women on as they stepped off the buses and onto a red carpet. Dozens of onlookers reached out for handshakes.

Some passed notes of gratitude to the veterans as they made their way inside.

Michael Antes stood by with his elderly father, waving three flags in the air as he cheered the veterans on.

He got choked up as he thought about all of the sacrifices made by the nation's vets and those who serve today.

"It's the least I can do for all of their service and everything they did for us," said Antes.

Alan Shapiro, 99, who served in World War II, said he finally felt like he was at home.

He said participating in the Honor Flight made him think about not only the sacrifices made by him and others but also reminded him of the lack of support he received after returning home from war.

"I had just arrived by train," Shapiro explained. "Nobody met me. I took another local train home and that was that."

He said that fostered a need to belong, which disappeared Saturday as he took in the admiration and respect from the community.

"After today, I feel at home finally," he said.

Another veteran, Ramona Howard, said the show of support was a shock to her system.

She said it was something she had never experienced before. Prior to Honor Flight, she wondered if service men and women were a priority to those who they fought for.

"A lot of us teared up, literally, because we don't know if people have patriotism and today we saw patriotism," Howard said.