LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - It was biggest crowd the Lincoln Airport's ever seen. Thousands of people showed up to welcome home 654 Vietnam Veterans from an Honor Flight to Washington, D.C.
It was a scene unlike any other Monday night. As the planes arrived one by one, the groups of veterans walked off the jetway to cheers and chants of USA, USA, USA. It's a well deserved homecoming for the men who never got one decades ago.
After a 2 a.m. wake-up call in Omaha, the group flew to Washington, D.C. There, they visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. It was a somber visit, to see the names of 58,000 Americans etched on the black granite slabs--399 are from Nebraska.
Randy Coslor from Hastings saw the wall for the first time Monday. He chose not to see the smaller, traveling version that has made its way around the country.
"I turned down several chances to see the traveling wall. I felt that it might take away from some of the impact of the real wall so I chose not to," said Coslor. "I'm glad that I made the decision, this was a moving experience. And I wasn't expecting to be quite this moved. Pure joy and a lot of emotion. I found the names I was looking for. Friends that I served in the Army with."
Late Monday afternoon, the veteran's wives were bused to the Lincoln Airport. They too were greeted with cheers, as they were escorted up the escalators to the terminals to wait for the planes arrivals.
Bev Frese was one of the women who patiently waited Monday night. She remembers waiting just like this 49 years ago. Her husband was the last one off the plane that day in Sioux City, Iowa and Monday night he once again was on the last plane to arrive at the Lincoln Airport.
"It was different though because people didn't cheer, no hurrah, I think some of them looked like they didn't like it that they had gone to Vietnam, so it was much different," said Frese. "Today has just been so fun and so heartwarming and so patriotic, so emotional."
But the moment they were reunited, both said it was more than they could have imagined.
Dennis Frese thanked everyone who helped make the day possible.
Prior to this Vietnam Veterans Honor Flight, the last largest crowd was in 1994 when Nebraska won the national title. Monday's crowd exceeded that.