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4-H’ers welcome back World War II vets

University of Wyoming Cooperative Extension

Not many 4-H experiences bring tears to the eyes of 4-H’ers and participants.

But teardrops fell on both sides during the welcome back the evening of Sept. 23, at the Casper Natrona County Airport for a Wyoming Honor Flight for World War II veterans.

4-H’ers in the Cole Creek Saddle Bums had helped put together 117 goodie bags filled with cookies and thank-you notes to give to WW II veterans returning from visiting the National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Club members along with leader Angie Hayes helped greet veterans as they deplaned that evening.

“The interaction between the

4-H’ers and veterans was unreal,” said Hayes. “The whole experience brought tears to my eyes to see our members shaking the hands of those vets and saying ‘Welcome back. Thank you for your service’ was very touching. The smile on the members’ faces and tears in the vets’ eyes as they saw the children is a memory I will take with me for the rest of my life.” She later added,

“I even saw some tears in those youngsters’ eyes.”

Club members last year had made cookies for the WW II group that meets at the Casper Vet Center as a community service project. A mother

of one of the club members works as

a counselor at the center and suggested the Honor Flight greet as a community service project for the club. “We presented it to the members, and

they were excited to be part of it,”

said Hayes.

Both her grandfathers who served in WW II have died; one served in the Army and the other in the Navy.

Her daughter, 14-year-old Justice, was one of six volunteers who helped pack goodie bags the evening before.

“I think it’s great we did this for them. They deserve to be able to see the memorial built in honor of them helping our country,” she said. “Back then, when they came home, they had to go straight to work. I think it’s great we are doing this before they pass away.”

Hayes said the veterans looked tired when they got off the plane. “But, man, when they came off the plane and were walking down the breezeway and saw the crowd there to welcome them home, they stood a little straighter and looked so, so very proud to be a part of this great nation,” she noted.

Hayes said there was amazement by the 4-H’ers. “I could tell our members were honored to be there, to be in the presence of these modern day heroes.” Hayes added the experience caused growth in club members. “They are already talking about getting a WWII vet to talk to the group. I can’t wait

for that.”

One veteran shaking hands with those in the welcome line took time to briefly visit with Hayes. “One gentleman said to me, ‘See this hat?’ Every one of the vets had a hat that said WWII Vet, but this one was a bit different,” said Hayes. “His said ‘Pearl Harbor Survivor.’ He said to me, ‘Not many people have a hat like that, and there aren’t many of us left!’ That was just one more defining moment as to what this generation has done for us.”


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