San Antonio, TX –
Terminal B at the San Antonio International Airport brimmed
with anticipation on a late Saturday night, as more than 100 San Antonians gathered to welcome home
16 returning war veterans Oct. 3.
Children waved American flags and “welcome home” signs while
adults readied cameras to capture the moment.
Dozens of Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen stood at attention in
their service uniforms, lining the entrance hallway. Upon the command of
“Present, Arms” they snapped their arms in unison with crisp salutes as the
veterans rolled into the terminal. Yes … rolled into the terminal.
From his wheelchair,
retired Army Col. Tom Morris, a 105-year-old Soldier who fought on D-Day
and at the Battle of the Bulge, led 15 other World War II and Korea veterans
into the throng of admirers.
The veterans were returning from an honor flight trip to
Washington, D.C., where they toured the nation’s capital, including the
memorials dedicated to the wars they fought in.
The San Antonio de Valero “hub,” or chapter, of the National
Honor Flight Network charity sponsored the trip.
The San Antonio de Valero hub was established in 2014 and
has sponsored three trips over the past 13 months supporting a total of 71
“Our goal is to pay tribute to America’s veteran heroes by
providing them the opportunity to travel to Washington D.C. cost free to visit
their memorials,” said retired Senior Master Sgt. Court van Sickler, hub
The hub supports 48 counties in south Texas with a priority
for World War II veterans and any veteran with a terminal illness.
“We are also accepting and evaluating applications for
Korean War and Vietnam War veterans that meet the National Honor Flight Network
criteria,” he added.
After touring the nation’s capital, the final event for the
honor flight’s two-day odyssey was the welcome home ceremony back in San
“I heard about it at work and just wanted to come out to show
our support for the veterans,” said Army Staff Sgt. Mario Allen, a combat
Allen trains combat medics at Fort Sam Houston as an
instructor at the U.S. Army Medical Department Center and School. Allen, his
wife Ph'chesta, and their son, Elijah, all planned their Saturday night to take
part in the ceremony. For Allen, it was a chance to expose his son to some
“A lot of these people have quite a bit of age under them,
so it’s nice that they’re still around to share their stories and for us to
thank them,” he said.
Van Sickler said the Honor Flight program is always looking
for help as the San Antonio chapter starts to plan its next flight.
There is also a third way to help, by volunteering to be a
“guardian” to assist those veterans without family members during their
“Personally, I truly enjoy the smiles on the veterans’ faces
when they realize that, after all these years, they are being recognized for
the sacrifices they made,” Van Sickler said. “I also get a smile on my face and
a great feeling of joy in my heart.”
Before the veterans left to go home for much-needed rest,
the smiling veterans were treated to a short ceremony and presented tokens of
appreciation such as photo books and quilts. The outpouring of support was a
little overwhelming for some, and the smiles were soon mixed with tears of
“Considering what they’ve done and the occupation that I
have, I figure it’s the least we can do to show our appreciation for the
service they provided for their country,” Allen said.