Special to the News-Herald
Lee Bratcher along with 66 other Kentucky veterans received a heroes’ welcome home Saturday from patriotic, flag-waving citizens who filled the entire terminal at Lexington’s Blue Grass Airport.
The veterans participated in a one-day tour of war memorials in the nation’s capital. This was the seventh Honor Flight sponsored by Farmers RECC and Kentucky’s Touchstone Energy Cooperatives. The mission was coordinated by Winchester-based Honor Flight Kentucky.
Several of the veterans, who served during World War II, Korea and Vietnam, said it was the best day of their lives.
“It was truly a great day,” said Lee Bratcher, who served in the Army during World War II.
As a bagpipe band led the returning veterans through the Lexington terminal, more than 1,500 family members and patriotic citizens waved “Welcome Home” signs and shook their hands.
Throughout the day, people greeted the veterans with smiles, requests for photos and many thanks for their sacrifices in the cause of freedom.
When the veterans arrived at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport that morning, a gauntlet of cheerleaders, football players and other citizens clapped as a chorus from the U.S. Military Academy sang patriotic songs.
After boarding three buses, a police escort cleared highway traffic and took them directly to the Air Force Memorial and the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial.
At the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery, the group watched the changing of the guard and participated in an emotional wreath-laying ceremony.
The day was made even more special by Mr. Bratcher, as he turned 91 on the day of the Honor Flight.
“They announced that morning that it was my birthday, so everyone has come up to wish me a ‘Happy Birthday’,” he said. “I had an awesome day.”