Last Saturday, hundreds of enthusiastic onlookers gathered at the Box Elder County Fairgrounds, waiting in the cold night air for their heroes to come home. At about 9:30 p.m., a bus loaded with 50 United States military veterans pulled up outside the entrance to the fairgrounds event center, arriving to a crowd of supporters who cheered and waved signs and American flags to let the passengers know their sacrifices, and those of their families, haven’t been forgotten. It was a long day for the veterans, who had awakened early that morning to catch a flight to Salt Lake City from Washington, D.C. They spent the weekend on a special, all-expenses-paid trip to see the memorials erected in honor of their sacrifice, and to pay tribute to the many who didn’t make it home. Flags were draped on freeway overpasses on I-15 on the route from Salt Lake City to Tremonton, and local law enforcement and fire agencies, along with a volunteer group of motorcycle escorts, helped ensure a safe arrival for the group. This gathering of veterans was the latest to take a trip through the Utah Honor Flight program, which arranges trips to visit war memorials in Washington and attend dinners and other events arranged in their honor. The Utah Honor Flight program, part of a nationwide network of similar organizations is the result of a collaborative effort of sponsor companies and others who donate time, effort and money to make the trips happen. More than 1,500 veterans have made the trip since the program began. The group of 50 veterans that came to last week’s homecoming in Tremonton included 41 who served in Vietnam, eight in Korea, and one who served in World War II. The homecoming ceremony was brief as the night was wearing on, but energy was high as each veteran received a neatly folded flag provided as part of an Eagle project by two local boy scouts. A generous round of applause from the crowd accompanied each hand-delivered flag. The first to receive a flag was John Goertzen, the only World War II veteran in attendance. Goertzen was drafted into the Army in 1945. While he was at basic training for the infantry at Camp Roberts in California, the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, and Goertzen was reassigned into the Army Air Corps and sent to Atsugi, Japan as part of the occupation forces. He was assigned to the 8th Squadron, 3rd bomb group as an airplane and engine mechanic, and he earned the MI Rifle Badge, the Victory Medal and the Army of Occupation Medal. Last Saturday’s homecoming was held in Tremonton largely because of Nucor Steel, one of Box Elder County’s top employers and a major sponsor of Utah Honor Flight. Randi McKay, a Utah Honor Flight board member and one of several Nucor employees who made the trip back east with the veterans, said it wouldn’t be possible without the support and hard work of many different local companies and organizations. McKay mentioned all the various groups that chipped in to make it happen, including the police and fire departments from Tremonton and other Box Elder County communities. “If I miss any of you, I’m so sorry — I haven’t slept in a few days,” McKay said. She made a special recognition of the Patriot Guard Riders of Utah, a volunteer group that provides motorcycle escorts and other support as the buses head home from the airport. “They meet us at the the airport, and they ride their motorcycles in freezing cold weather all the way here,” she said. McKay said that from her perspective, the trip was a huge success. “We truly did have a great time,” she said. “There was some healing that happened, and a lot of friendships made.” McKay concluded her remarks with a personal message to the veterans before sending them off to rejoin their families, who were waiting eagerly to take them home for a much-needed rest. “I love every single one of you. This whole staff loves every single one of you. Look at all these people who love you,” she said, gesturing to the crowd. “Thank you so much, and welcome home.”

Last Saturday, hundreds of enthusiastic onlookers gathered at the Box Elder County Fairgrounds, waiting in the cold night air for their heroes to come home.

At about 9:30 p.m., a bus loaded with 50 United States military veterans pulled up outside the entrance to the fairgrounds event center, arriving to a crowd of supporters who cheered and waved signs and American flags to let the passengers know their sacrifices, and those of their families, haven’t been forgotten.

It was a long day for the veterans, who had awakened early that morning to catch a flight to Salt Lake City from Washington, D.C. They spent the weekend on a special, all-expenses-paid trip to see the memorials erected in honor of their sacrifice, and to pay tribute to the many who didn’t make it home.

Flags were draped on freeway overpasses on I-15 on the route from Salt Lake City to Tremonton, and local law enforcement and fire agencies, along with a volunteer group of motorcycle escorts, helped ensure a safe arrival for the group.

This gathering of veterans was the latest to take a trip through the Utah Honor Flight program, which arranges trips to visit war memorials in Washington and attend dinners and other events arranged in their honor.

The Utah Honor Flight program, part of a nationwide network of similar organizations is the result of a collaborative effort of sponsor companies and others who donate time, effort and money to make the trips happen. More than 1,500 veterans have made the trip since the program began.

The group of 50 veterans that came to last week’s homecoming in Tremonton included 41 who served in Vietnam, eight in Korea, and one who served in World War II.

The homecoming ceremony was brief as the night was wearing on, but energy was high as each veteran received a neatly folded flag provided as part of an Eagle project by two local boy scouts. A generous round of applause from the crowd accompanied each hand-delivered flag.

The first to receive a flag was John Goertzen, the only World War II veteran in attendance.

Goertzen was drafted into the Army in 1945. While he was at basic training for the infantry at Camp Roberts in California, the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, and Goertzen was reassigned into the Army Air Corps and sent to Atsugi, Japan as part of the occupation forces. He was assigned to the 8th Squadron, 3rd bomb group as an airplane and engine mechanic, and he earned the MI Rifle Badge, the Victory Medal and the Army of Occupation Medal.

Last Saturday’s homecoming was held in Tremonton largely because of Nucor Steel, one of Box Elder County’s top employers and a major sponsor of Utah Honor Flight.

Randi McKay, a Utah Honor Flight board member and one of several Nucor employees who made the trip back east with the veterans, said it wouldn’t be possible without the support and hard work of many different local companies and organizations.

McKay mentioned all the various groups that chipped in to make it happen, including the police and fire departments from Tremonton and other Box Elder County communities.

“If I miss any of you, I’m so sorry — I haven’t slept in a few days,” McKay said.

She made a special recognition of the Patriot Guard Riders of Utah, a volunteer group that provides motorcycle escorts and other support as the buses head home from the airport.

“They meet us at the the airport, and they ride their motorcycles in freezing cold weather all the way here,” she said.

McKay said that from her perspective, the trip was a huge success.

“We truly did have a great time,” she said. “There was some healing that happened, and a lot of friendships made.”

McKay concluded her remarks with a personal message to the veterans before sending them off to rejoin their families, who were waiting eagerly to take them home for a much-needed rest.

“I love every single one of you. This whole staff loves every single one of you. Look at all these people who love you,” she said, gesturing to the crowd. “Thank you so much, and welcome home.”

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