BEDFORD, Va. – Dressed in red, white and blue, a crowd welcomed home Virginia veterans from their Honor Flight to the nation’s capital.
Eighty motorcycles revved up their engines at the National D-Day Memorial to welcome home a dozen veterans.
On Friday, the veterans headed to Washington D.C. to view war memorials on the Honor Flight.
American flags waved in the air Sunday afternoon as veterans returned from their trip.
For Clifton ‘Buck’ Krantz, an army veteran of the Vietnam War, it was a heartfelt moment to graze his fingers along the names of the people he knew etched on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
“And put my hand on my comrades that I personally knew,” he said. “Not just in the military but in high school.”
He vividly remembers a scared young man sitting on his bunker already determining his own fate.
“He sat up on a bunker and he was white as a sheet,” Krantz said. “He told me two things I will never forget. He said, ‘I have been in the country for two weeks and I’m not going to make it.’ His name is now on the [memorial] wall.”
After a lunch with family and friends provided by Mission BBQ, the veterans lined up to share emotional tales of their adventures.
As the only female veteran on the trip, Kathryn Norris Campbell said the team took her in like family.
“It was like sitting and talking to brothers,” she said.
Campbell was inducted into the Military Women’s Memorial while on the trip for her service as an army dental assistant.
“It still was a shock and an honor and a surprise at the same time,” she said.
But nothing touched her heart more than talking to children who were eager to meet their first female veteran.
“The kids’ interest perked me up so much,” she said. “They took notes. They asked for my autograph. So I am going to be in their report when they go back to school tomorrow.”
A 97-year-old veteran opened a folder and showed the crowd handmade cards from kids thanking the heroes.
“We need to educate the younger generation,” Krantz said. “Not to make them say, ‘Thank you, veteran.’ But just learn history.”