Every day in the past 8 years, more than 100 US soldiers passed through the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport on their way home for two weeks of rest and recuperation. Each soldier was greeted with applause and hearty handshakes from volunteer "greeters" who traveled to the airport just to show their thanks.
On Wednesday, more than a thousand greeters delivered a thunderous welcome, along with flowers and high-fives, to the 230 troops aboard the final arriving military charter that will use DFW airport, ending the unique Texas “Welcome Home A Hero” program
(Watch the video below)
As military troop reductions continue overseas, the United States Army is ending its charter flights to DFW, consolidating the fewer flights instead to Atlanta-Hartsfield Jackson International Airport. Following the final arrival Wednesday, the U.S. Army and the Airport paid tribute to the volunteers who turned their affectionate welcome into a nationally recognized community service project that lasted eight years.
“You, the Welcome Home A Hero volunteers made it your individual, personal, mission to extend a warm welcome to our military troops coming home through DFW,” said Jim Crites, DFW executive vice president for operations. “You were able to see in the eyes of those who served, someone who knew they were appreciated and loved. This was and is priceless.”
Sal Giunta, a retired U.S. Army Staff Sergeant who became the first Congressional Medal of Honor recipient in forty years, told the crowd about his personal experiences coming through DFW Airport on two different occasions.
“I felt like a true hero walking through those doors,” said Giunta. “I felt that way because of the amount of support. People don’t just give up their jobs in the middle of the day to shake anyone’s hand, cheer for them and bake cookies and take time out of their busy lives. Here at this airport, this group of people, they do that every single day.”
The “Welcome Home a Hero” program has been nationally recognized as a model for civic participation and grew into one of the largest public service projects in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Volunteers greeted over 460,000 inbound soldiers transiting through DFW on their way home from active duty in Iraq and in Afghanistan. Hundreds of local organizations and more than 10,000 individual volunteers have greeted about 2,700 incoming flights during the life of the program. (See more of the photos from the group's Facebook page, here)
(WATCH the NBC tribute video below, from Nightly News)