Central Valley Honor Flight veterans return home

ATWATER, Calif. (KFSN) -- Hundreds of people showed up for a homecoming to remember in Atwater Wednesday night.

They welcomed back dozens of World War Two and Korean War veterans from Washington D.C., as part of the eighth Central Valley Honor Flight.

There were delays on the way to D.C., a little bit of a late arrival Atwater, but it was all worth it to see the smiling faces on the veterans. After more than an hour of waiting, there was an explosion of cheers for the arrival of the charter flight carrying more than 60 valley veterans.

Armed with an American flag, Korean War vet Virgil Ryals stood and saluted his fellow service members, one by one. "They're veterans, they served in a place that most people would never go to and besides that why they did it because they also liked the United States flag," Ryals said.

You couldn't begin to count the number of American flags during the homecoming, as adults and children, including an Atwater Girl Scouts troop, packed the gates inside Castle Airport in Atwater. "I just love seeing the veterans I love seeing their faces and how their reactions," said one of the Girl Scouts.

There were smiles, some tears, and plenty of bright red lipstick for heroes like Ken Abrahamian, who served in the Pacific during World War Two. "I don't know I thought maybe a president was here, everybody hollering and I looked around it was just neat," Abrahamian said.

"It makes you proud, makes you proud that folks remember and appreciate," said Ralph Rush, another World War Two veteran. At 93, Rush can still remember his younger days as a scout for General Patton in Germany. "Tried to keep his boys out of trouble," Rush said.

He became among the first to expose the Nazi concentration camps in April of 1944. Those were dark days, but these are much brighter, where Rush has a loving family that can't wait to hear new stories from his honor flight experience. "I think it's reminiscent of the support they had in World War Two, all the music and all the songs," said Judi Rush, a family member.

The next Central Valley Honor Flight will be in April out of Fresno Yosemite International Airport.
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