OWENSBORO, Ky. (WEHT) – For the first time since before the Covid pandemic, veterans are getting the chance to experience our nation’s capitol through Honor Flight. After spending an entire day in Washington, D.C., veterans were treated to a hero’s welcome home at the National Guard Armory in Owensboro.

“It’s like coming back from overseas, you know,” explains Navy veteran Ralph Martinez. “A ship pulls in and everybody’s there meeting you. It’s just like that, and that’s how I felt. Family comes first to me.”

Martinez was greeted by several family members holding signs and joining others in waving their American flags. Another veteran, Ralph Bemboom, says the trip and the welcome party were both overwhelming. He had doubts about going on the trip, stating he felt other veterans were more deserving of him. That was until his guardian for the trip, a former ROTC student of his, convinced him to join.

“So I thought, if nothing else, go for those people who can’t go physically, or for those who are no longer here, as an honor to them,” says Bemboom.

Veteran Carey Leonard enjoyed seeing the memorials and monuments, but says he also enjoyed meeting other fellow veterans on the trip. Leonard also say she encourages other veterans to take the Honor Flight trip if they ever get the chance.

“You meet a lot of people, some you know,” says Leonard. “You meet new people, just a great bunch. It doesn’t matter what branch of service, we’re all veterans.”

Honor Flight Bluegrass preceded another return trip for veterans in the Evansville-area. Honor Flight of Southern Indiana is also returning to the sky for the first time since before the pandemic began.