Honor Flight/Photo Gallery

Homecoming gives WWII vets the welcome they didn't get after war

CREATED Nov. 9, 2012

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  • Photo: Jodi Becker

  • Photo: Jodi Becker

  • Photo: Jodi Becker

  • Photo: Jodi Becker

  • Photo: Jodi Becker

MILWAUKEE - We wrap up our coverage of the most recent Honor Flight the same way our local World War II veterans wrapped up their trip to see their memorial: with a giant Homecoming celebration.

As our heroes got off their plane they walk into the secure area of the terminal to see a bag pipe band playing in their honor. Lining the hall, sailors on each side saluted as a welcome home.

"This is just great, overwhelming," said one veteran.

The vets moved slowly at the end of a long day, and as they approach the concourse there were lines of volunteers clapping for them.

The vets may have thought this was all there was, until they got to the main section of Mitchell International Airport.

That's where the hallways opened, and the magnitude of what was happening hit them.

As a band played, they saw thousands of people with thousands of flags, pictures, signs and balloons.

These people gave the vets the homecoming they never got after World War II.

"The whole fan-damily," joked one vet about the thousands who greeted him.

One family of people of every age was decked out in red shirts.

"Burly Jacobs...he's our pop." said a pair of young children.

"We have 11 great-grandkids today.  He's 92 years old," said the kids' mother.

One family did its homework to make sure their hero's story is never lost or forgotten.

"He was 22.  He was called into service right after college.  He was married seven days, and left for two years."

Then, the family waited.

"He's probably the last one on the plane," uttered one great-grandchild.

Then, eventually..."Here he comes!  AAAAAHHH!" screamed one of the girls.

"I was (surprised).  I figured on two, not 20," uttered Burly to Newsradio 620 WTMJ's Jodi Becker.

Our heroes are undeniably humble.

Burly's grandson was his guardian for the day.

"He's overwhelmed, flattered.  I'm very humbled and inspired," said the grandson.

As the vets snaked their way through the crowd the cheers changed to "USA!  USA!"

After saving this country, it seemed like a fitting thing for the veterans to hear to end their journey.