by Airman 1st Class Amber Powell
177th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
5/21/2015 - CLEARWATER, Fla. -- U.S.
Air Force Airmen from the New Jersey Air National Guard came together
with members of the local community May 19 to welcome home approximately
80 World War II veterans.
Members of the 177th Fighter Wing, who are in Florida for a deployment
for training to work with Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater and Sector
St. Petersburg, lined the halls of St. Petersburg-Clearwater
International Airport, shaking hands and thanking the veterans returning
home from a trip to Washington D.C.
"It's important to go because it shows respect," said Chief Master Sgt.
Michael Jones, 177th Fighter Wing civil engineering chief enlisted
manager. "They paved the way for us, so it was good for the younger
generation to see that these were actual people ... knowing what they
The veterans first walked from their gate in the airport passing
military and community members, balloons, and welcome home signs.
Awaiting them inside the terminal were a live band, actors in vintage
uniforms, and a photo opportunity to end the trip.
"It was humbling to be there," said Senior Airman Tom Ewald, from the
177th Fighter Wing's civil engineering structures shop. "I never thought
I would get to see anything like that in my life. It was a once in a
lifetime event and they deserved every bit of that."
"The veterans love seeing military people," said Nancy Stevens, a
representative from the Honor Flight Network, a non-profit network that
flies veterans to Washington D.C. to visit the war memorials honoring
their service. "They love being able to talk and swap stories with