Dozens of local World War II and Korean War veterans received a surprise welcome home Saturday after a day-long trip to Washington.
“Hard to make me have tears, but I had tears in my eyes, just seeing us all together safe,” said Patrick Zampetti, a World War II veteran.
Zampetti was one of 160 vets who spent the day in Washington as part of a trip organized by the Honor Flight Network. The nonprofit coordinates excursions to the nation’s capital so veterans can visit and reflect at war memorials and museums.
The emotional experience was the first time many of the men and women have visited the sites.
“People coming up and asking to take a picture of you with them,” said World War II Veteran Earl Buffington. “It was terrific down there.”
A police escort and motorcyclists with Warriors’ Watch accompanied the seven buses home Saturday afternoon. When they arrived at St. Kevin Catholic Church on 200 Sproul Road in Springfield, Delaware County, a crowd of hundreds surprised the group.
As the veterans ate dinner, volunteers thanked them for their service and a trio of singers, whose appearance harkened back to the Andrews Sisters, performed.
“This is about the best day of my life,” said Walt Kocielski, a World War II veteran. “I come off of Iwo Jima out of Scranton and I thought that was great. But this is great."