SAN DIEGO - A group of 81 World War II veterans received a hero's welcome at Lindbergh Field as they returned from Washington, D.C.
They returned to San Diego from their Honor Flight to the waving of American flags and cheering from hundreds of San Diegans.
"Oh my goodness, I was crying," said veteran Moses Martin. "I never cry, for goodness sakes."
For many of the veterans, it was their first and last chance to celebrate their service and say their goodbyes to old friends.
"I don't know the words to express my feelings for this trip … During the Korean War, I was on the USS Bonhomme Richard and on this flight I met two people … that were on the ship the same time," said veteran Robert McCray.
He was a black shoe, working down on the generator of the USS Bonhomme Richard during the Korean War.
McCray says the people he met on this Honor Flight are some he won't soon forget.
"This is where you meet these people … you didn't know them but you met them and today I know them," he said.
Last week, 10News spoke with 92-year-old Martin as he prepared to leave on the once-in-a lifetime trip. The aviation machinist kept Navy planes in the air during World War II.
"I didn't know what to say ... thank you, I mean, I love you, I mean, the whole nine yards," said Martin.
When asked about his trip, he said, "Oh my goodness gracious, the monuments were just super fantastic … The veterans monument, oh, what they went through to build that thing!"
Despite the government shutdown that had closed the national monuments for more than two weeks, they were able to see the monuments and say the U.S. National Park Service would have honored the 81 veterans inside regardless of the shutdown.
Martin's daughter says she has never seen her father so excited.
"I cannot wait to get home and hear his stories. I mean, he is so excited," said Mary Ann Pearson, Martin's daughter. "I started bawling when he walked around the corner. He started crying and he never cries."
Teenagers who volunteered on the Honor Flight tell 10News they have a new appreciation for what these veterans did for our freedom.
"Each person had a different story so you could find out so much about all the different aspects of the war," said volunteer Grant Gainor.
Dave Smith, the chairman of Honor Flight San Diego, told 10News, "16 million served in World War II, 448,000 lost their lives and countless more helped at home … probably the best team that was ever created and they never were thanked and we're finally getting around to doing that."
It was a thank you that will never be forgotten.