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This is the Vietnam Helicopter Pilot and Crewmember Monument at Arlington National Cemetery (photo courtesy of Arlington National Cemetery's website)

Central Missouri Honor Flight veterans return home to flags, fireworks

This is the Vietnam Helicopter Pilot and Crewmember Monument at Arlington National Cemetery (photo courtesy of Arlington National Cemetery’s website)

95 Missouri veterans returned home to Columbia Monday night to a heroes’ welcome, after the 63rd Honor Flight to Washington DC.

Most of the veterans were from the Vietnam era. Central Missouri Honor Flight board president Mary Paulsell says the veterans visited numerous monuments in Washington. They also visited decorated World War II hero Audie Murphy’s grave.

“Well many of these Vietnam veterans particularly had fathers who served in World War II. And everyone knew Audie Murphy. They knew him for his extraordinary military service and then of course his movie career,” Paulsell says.

They also visited the smaller memorial at Arlington National Cemetery that’s dedicated to the Vietnam helicopter pilots.

“Who were heroes among heroes and flew in at great risk to bring the wounded and dying back to the base. So those Huey pilots like to go stand by that,” says Paulsell.

Arlington National Cemetery’s website says more than 4,800 helicopter pilots and crew members were killed in action, and more than 300 are buried at Arlington.

About 400 Central Missouri Honor Flight Riders escorted the Honor Flight bus back to Columbia from Kingdom City, and I-70 Towing and other businesses along the interstate raised large American flags, as the bus came by. Members of the Prairie Grove Baptist Church also shot fireworks, as the bus came by.

Columbia Mayor Barbara Buffaloe and Jefferson City Mayor Carrie Tergin were among the crowd that greeted the veterans when they returned to Columbia’s Courtyard by Marriott hotel.

This is the second Central Missouri Honor Flight this year. The first one happened in May.

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