On Sunday, May 1, 2016 about 30 of us gathered at General Mitchell Airport in Milwaukee, Wisconsin to welcome 23 World War II heroes back from their trip to Washington, DC.

Honor Flight is a privately funded program that takes World War II and Korean War veterans to Washington, DC to see the memorials that stand in their honor.  Here in Northern Illinois, we are fortunate to be able to work with several Honor Flight organizations including Honor Flight Chicago, Lake County Honor Flight and McHenry Honor Flight.

As is our customary practice, our leather-clad horde marched through the airport to await the arrival of our heroes and welcome them home.  The excitement in the air became palpable as other travelers become aware of the arrival of Honor Flight.

Once they were greeted, photographed and loaded onto the buses, we began our 50-mile, LEO accompanied escort to the greeting ceremony in North Chicago, Illinois.

All of this was typical of an Honor Flight escort except for the following:

Officer Gary Grayer of the North Chicago Police Department had contacted the police departments in the home towns of each of the participants of Honor Flight.  Leading our escort were more than 20 marked police cars from communities like Highland Park, Deerfield, Gurnee and Wauconda, IL.

All with their lights blazing through the afternoon drizzle.  Between the squad cars and the bus carrying our heroes were four police motorcycles, including Officer Grayer’s.

The rest of the bike were behind the bus where, you need to stay back 75 feet to avoid the smell of burnt diesel fuel.

As we arrived at Veterans Memorial Park in North Chicago, we were met by a cheering, flag-waving crowd of hundreds.  This is the very reason bikers wear sun glasses.

Once the veterans were unloaded from the bus and seated in front of the crowd, they were formally welcomed home and thanked for their service by several local dignitaries (read “politicians”) and reunited with their families.

All in all, it was great and successful mission.  If you still haven’t attended an Honor Flight, you should consider doing so before this great national treasure is lost to us.

To view pix, click HERE