SALT LAKE CITY — "Overwhelmed with emotion" was a phrase used a lot Thursday through Saturday, but it rang especially true as 53 veterans with the Utah Honor Flight returned home from a free trip to Washington, D.C.
Most of those veterans came home from war long after hostilities had ended. They missed the parades and returned to a country trying to leave the war in the past. Some never spoke of what happened, not even to their own families. As the decades passed, some came to believe the country didn't remember what they went through or what was at stake.
On this trip, they learned otherwise when they were bombarded with the applause and the gratitude of strangers. Upon returning to the Utah State Fairpark in Salt Lake City, that appreciation came from very familiar faces as they were cheered by hundreds of friends and family members.
"Man, it blows me away," said Ken Baldridge, who served in the Navy in World War II. "The appreciation that's demonstrated is just fantastic."
"It was just absolutely awesome," said Dale Workman, who served in the Pacific with the Marines in World War II. "It couldn't have been better if it'd been twice as good."
For Workman, the entire trip changed his opinion of America, and the public's feelings about him and other veterans.
"I thought the spirit was gone," he said. "I thought patriotism was dead, but it's not. It's still here and going good."
The Utah Honor Flight will continue its mission, not just to show veterans their memorials, but to let them feel the respect and admiration of the public. Another flight is scheduled next week, serving veterans from southern Utah.