This time the reception was different.
Between 4,500 and 5,000 people crowded into Eppley Airfield in Omaha to greet the return of about 500 Vietnam War veterans who had returned from a day in Washington, D.C. after a special Combat Veterans Honor Flight. Among those attending was Gov. Pete Ricketts.
The crowd, which airport officials confirmed was the largest ever to greet a returning military group, contrasted sharply to the non-hero’s welcome, sometimes outright animosity, the veterans received when they returned from combat in Vietnam.
The Honor Flight took three planeloads of Nebraska Vietnam veterans to the nation’s capital.
The 500 veterans came from nearly 200 Nebraska communities for the quick, one-day trip.
They were treated to a pre-flight dinner Sunday at the Embassy Suites in La Vista, before leaving Eppley very early Monday morning.
Organizers treated veterans to a tour of D.C. and visits to the National Mall and the various monuments as well as tours of the Korean War and World War II Memorials. They observed the changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknowns.
The highlight of the trip was an emotional stop at the black granite list of the dead on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial with many of the veterans grimly reflecting on the loss of those they knew so well during a war that tore the country apart.
Karla James contributed to this report.