Mid-Missouri Veterans Return Under Stars

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COLUMBIA - Seventy mid-Missouri veterans took off on Central Missouri Honor Flight #23 to Washington D.C. early Tuesday morning and returned late Tuesday night.

The one-day trip to Washington D.C. consisted of tours of the WWII Memorial, Korean War Memorial, Vietnam Memorial, Battle of Iwo Jima Memorial, and Arlington National Cemetery.

Central Missouri Honor Flight is an organization that has flown 1,285 veterans to the nation's capital.

While the veterans were visiting D.C., about 100 volunteers were preparing for the veterans arrival in Columbia. Many volunteers made welcome home signs, decorated entrances, helped rent wheelchairs for the vets, took the flight with the vets to make sure they were safe, contacted family members, and more.

"I think the main thing with this group is whenever there's a glitch, or something that needs to be done because, of course, nothing with this many people goes totally smoothly all the time, it just seems like everybody just knows how to fit in and do what they need to do," Central Missouri Honor Flight Coordinator Jan Bell said.

"At the end of such a fantastic day, just to see them when they get off the bus and they're so proud, and they're so happy and you know that you've made some what of a feeling of closure for them for a part of their life," said Bell.

The veterans arrived back in Columbia around 10:15 p.m. escorted by hundreds of motorcycles.

Korean War Air Force Veteran Paul Salois shared his story with many after he got back to Columbia. He taught foreign soldiers and air men to operate the equipment that United States provided them during the Korean War. Salois said his favorite part about serving at Scott Air Force Base during the Korean War was meeting his wife and getting married in 1952.

Salois brought his daughter on the honor flight. He said she she was able to take pictures of him in front of the memorials they visited. Salois explained he was very happy to have the opportunity to go on the honor flight.

The Korean War Veteran said the arrival back to Columbia was unbelievable.

"I couldn't believe 380 some motorcycles following along beside our busses," Salois said. "And then we got here, and thousands of people were here to welcome us, and everyone wanted to shake our hands and welcome us. I never thought, I'd have this kind of a feeling about having been in the service for a few years because it was quite a gratifying experience."