PEORIA, Ill. -- The inaugural Greater Peoria Honor Flight was a success.
About 2,500 people verified the accomplishment by showing up at the Peoria International Airport to welcome the veterans home.
Tuesday night, they didn't come empty handed. They waved handmade signs, flags and balloons high in the air with pride and gratitude.
The man-made receiving line stretched from the airport gate to the check-in counters.
One 93-year-old participant came all the way from Minnesota to surprise her 87-year-old baby brother.
"I lived through the second World War and it was a time of just, terrible time here in the U.S," said Lucille Guy. "All of our men were practically gone and we were on rations and it was really a hard time. But we won the war and saved the world."
Another participant came in memory of her mother.
"She taught us to thank a veteran when you see them because they're why we're the free country we are," said Phyllis Piraino. "And that's why I'm proud to be an American because of this."
Veterans we spoke with say the surprising display of patriotism brought tears to their eyes.
The next honor flight is scheduled for September.
To donate or apply for the flight, visit www.greaterpeoriahonorflight.com.