618th AOC (TACC) Airmen honor local veterans at airport ceremony

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Elias Small
  • 618th Air Operations Center (Tanker Airlift Control Center) Public Affairs
It's not every day an Airman gets to salute veterans who served in Vietnam, Korea and World War II.

Team members from the 618th Air Operations Center (Tanker Airlift Control Center) traveled to Lambert- St. Louis International Airport Aug. 4 to welcome 20 local war veterans home from a whirlwind tour of District of Columbia war memorials.

The ceremony was the culmination of the most recent "Honor Flight" sponsored and coordinated by the Greater St. Louis Honor Flight organization, which provides veterans a free, all-inclusive opportunity to see the national memorials built in their honor. These former service members took a bus tour and visited five war memorials and Arlington National Cemetery in a single day.Most of these former service members are in their 80s and 90s and would unable to plan or travel on such a comprehensive trip without the group's assistance. 

MSgt Brenden Leahy, mobility support advisory squadron coordinator and volunteer coordinator for the 618th AOC (TACC) says his passion is getting people involved in things bigger than themselves. "My grandfather was in World War II, and I think about him every time I go out there."

To each side of Gate E6 in Terminal 2, a line of dress uniform clad service members and volunteers stood at attention and saluted as the veterans disembarked from their plane. Leahy and 12 other 618th AOC (TACC) team members stood shoulder to alongside other Airmen, Sailors, Soldiers, Marines and Coast Guardsmen from Scott Air Force Base, as well as local emergency service personnel and members of the Cub Scouts.

After all the veterans passed by, some with the assistance of wheelchairs and escorts, the volunteers formed a procession and marched the former service members through the airport's security checkpoint where an excited crowd of family members and onlookers cheered. As flags in the crowd waved, the active-duty service members lined up to present each veteran with a certificate, handshake and a final salute.

"I'm sure it's a very emotional trip for the veterans," said Staff Sgt. Alec Krabbe, spectrum manager at the 618th AOC (TACC). "Being greeted by uniformed military members when they return has to be incredible for them, especially considering some may not have received such warm welcomes when returning home in their day."

Krabbe, Leahy and many of the other of the 618th AOC (TACC) Airmen are already looking forward to the next opportunity to show their respect, happening Tuesday 8:00 p.m.

"I'll be there Tuesday night," Leahy said. "It's important to honor them and to be there to represent our country as active-duty service members. Thanking our veterans for their sacrifice and service is priceless."