ROCK ISLAND, Ill. -- Just like before, they left proud and came back heroes.
Ninety-two Iowa-Illinois World War II- and Korean War-era veterans flew to Washington, D.C, toured the capital area and its war memorials, and then returned back to a hero's welcome at the Quad City International Airport.
The veterans and retirees were escorted by "guardians," of whom 37 out of 90 were Gold Star family members. This was the first time that Gold Star family members served as guardians for the Honor Flight of the Quad Cities, a local organization heading up trips for veterans to visit Washington, D.C.
On Sept. 19, the former military personnel were honored with a dinner at the Hy-Vee banquet hall on East Kimberly Road in Davenport, Iowa.
Command Sgt. Maj. James Spencer of the Army Sustainment Command, Rock Island, Ill., served as the guest speaker. Other ASC personnel were present, including Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Chuck Rizer.
On Sept. 20, the veterans flew out around 7 a.m. to Washington, D.C., and returned about 10 p.m. Many ASC personnel there, just like during the send-off, lining the corridor to the baggage claim area with cheers and handshakes.
While in the nation's capital, the veterans visited the Korean War Memorial, World War Il Memorial and Arlington National Cemetery.
Annie Cox, Gold Star wife of Staff Sgt. Nathan Cox, and his mother, Jane Cox, placed a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier during a ceremony at Arlington to commemorate the fourth anniversary of his death.
Cox was killed in action the Korengal Valley, Afghanistan, Sept. 20.
"Although the day was emotional and rewarding, I felt like Nathan was with me and his mom. I watched the veterans shed a few tears and release some of their own ghosts," Annie Cox said.
"What an honor to represent Gold Star families and Army spouses. It was just an amazing, humbling experience. I could not think of a better way to honor Nate's memory on the anniversary of his death."
To date, this was the 20th trip by the Honor Flight of the Quad Cities, with several more planned next year. Hy-Vee, a grocery chain in the area, will sponsor an honor flight scheduled for Nov. 8.
(Jackie Hoggins, Army Sustainment Command Public Affairs, contributed to this article.)