North Texas folks are serious about welcoming home America's military heroes. Thousands of volunteer well-wishers have assembled at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport during the past seven years to greet troops returning from Kuwait, Afghanistan and Iraq.
Every day, more than 100 military heroes pass through Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport on their way home for two weeks of rest and recuperation from deployment to Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan. DFW has assisted more than 1 million military men and women in transit since the first R&R flight arrived in November 2004.
Army Lt. Col. Patrick McAfee, commander of the Army's Dallas/Fort Worth Personnel Assistance Point since 2005, says the "Welcome a Hero" program couldn't be better situated than in the heart of Texas at one of the nation's busiest airports, surrounded by patriotic Americans.
"I'm amazed every morning at the number of folks that line the pathway of returning troops," McAfee says. "They are loud and proud. They are enthusiastic and sincere in their greetings. The Welcome Home A Hero program here at DFW is nothing short of inspiring. I can't wait to get to work every morning."
Participants greeting the returning troops range from corporate executives to youth groups. Schools, civic organizations, churches and regular individuals also join in the greeting of troops in transit.
"Elementary school children arrive with hand-painted signs," McAfee said. " Folks from The American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars and other veterans service organizations are frequently in attendance waving small American flags and extending a hand to their active-duty counterparts. Folks run the gamut. Former President George Bush and his wife Laura were here last year to welcome home surprised troops."
The program would not be possible without the support of DFW and the North Texas Commission, McAfee said.
"We are delighted to assist DFW International Airport with its greeting program for the troops returning for R&R," said Mabrie Jackson, president and CEO of the North Texas Commission. "This is truly a regional effort of patriotic citizens wanting to show their support for our troops."
The airport has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars for office space for the R&R and USO program and waived more than $1 million in landing fees. DFW is one of only two R & R programs at airports in the United States; Atlanta's Hartsfield International Airport is also part of the program.
"DFW International Airport has been honored to receive the troops coming home," said Jeff Fegan, CEO of DFW. "We have been motivated to help these fine men and women in every way we can since July 2004 and have been coordinating with the other groups involved to ensure that volunteers can do what they do best. The ‘Welcome Home A Hero' mission is second to none."