HANOI, Vietnam (WBAY) - Old Glory Honor Flight has completed its mission.
Final group photo for the Old Glory Honor Flight "Return to Nam," taken in front of the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in Hanoi (WBAY photo)
Fifty-two local veterans are on their way home after spending two weeks in Vietnam on the first-ever Honor Flight to that country.
In our Return to Vietnam coverage, Jeff Alexander files one final report before the vets return home.
Without question, it is mission accomplished for Old Glory Honor Fligh t-- and most importantly, for the veterans on their historic return to Vietnam.
Over the past two weeks, they have laughed, they have cried and they have developed a bond that is truly special.
And they've seen Vietnam, that in most areas, looks drastically different from when they were here the first time 50 years ago.
From the hustle and bustle of Saigon and the fertile fields of the Mekong Delta -- to the beautiful coastal city of Da Nang and the scenic Perfume River in Hue -- and finally here in Hanoi, the vets have seen a country that is growing in prosperity.
And, of course, the vets were there for each other during those highly emotional moments when we returned to the areas they served and lost friends during the war
This journey was an experience that will stick with these veterans for the rest of their lives.
"When I left here 48 years ago, I shut the door, and when we came back now we're opening the door, and when the tears started I thought, 'oh boy,' but now the door can stay open," Dennis Helke of Manitowoc said.
"It was a blessing to be here and to meet so many of the local people throughout all of Vietnam. We were received well, welcomed, we were treated like kings," George Dexter of Suamico said.
"And the people that made this trip possible," Elton Scheunemann from Suamico said. "It's just, I can't thank them enough. It's just a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I'm truly grateful."
"The cries, the smiling, the happiness, something that none of us probably ever would've had the opportunity to do, and I pray that we have either some or all have some type of closure to go back home and live the rest of our lives realizing that we did something good, and we can let it go and enjoy the rest of our lives with our family and our friends," Vietnam veteran and Old Glory Honor Flight board member Tony Van Kampen said.
The next time you see these guys there will probably be one last round of tears when they receive the unexpected and long overdue welcome home they so richly deserve.