DFW International Airport Hosts Final "Welcome Home A Hero" Greeting For Soldiers
Medal of Honor recipient Sal Giunta leads tribute to program volunteers
More than a thousand volunteer greeters delivered a thunderous welcome to the 230 troops aboard the final arriving military charter into Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) International Airport today, the final day of the “Welcome Home A Hero” program. The flight arrived into DFW with a traditional shower of affection water cannon salute from the DFW Department of Public Safety. Following the troop arrival, the U.S. Army and the Airport paid tribute to the volunteers who turned the daily greeting into a nationally recognized community service project over the past eight years.
Jim Crites, DFW executive vice president for operations, saluted the greeters on hand for the final arrival.
“You, the Welcome Home A Hero volunteers made it your individual, personal, mission to extend a warm welcome to our military troops coming home through DFW,” said Crites. “You were able to see in the eyes of those you served someone who knew they were appreciated and loved. This was and is priceless.”
The United States Army Human Resources Command is ending the daily rest and recuperation (R&R) charter flights into DFW and closing its Personnel Assistance Point (PAP) at the Airport, consolidating flights into Atlanta-Hartsfield Jackson International Airport as military deployment reductions continue overseas. There will be two more weeks of departures from DFW, with the final outbound flight scheduled for March 30.
Sal Giunta, a retired U.S. Army Staff Sergeant who became the first Congressional Medal of Honor recipient in forty years, told the crowd about his personal experiences coming through DFW Airport and experiencing the Welcome Home A Hero program on two occasions.
“I felt like a true hero walking through those doors,” said Giunta. “I felt that way because of the amount of support. People don’t just give up their jobs in the middle of the day to shake anyone’s hand, cheer for them and bake cookies and take time out of their busy lives. Here at this airport, this group of people, they do that every single day.”
“I know none of our volunteers did this for recognition or thanks, but instead out of love and respect for those that put their lives in harm’s way every day,” said Lt. General Donald Campbell, commander of III Corps and Fort Hood, Texas. “Please know that serving those who are truly in harm’s way is the most noble thing you can do, and we appreciate your support.”
The USO facility at DFW Airport will remain in operation serving troops, even after the end of scheduled R&R charter flights. Troops will continue transiting through DFW individually or in small groups on their travels between the United States and the theater of operations in the Middle East, and will continue to receive enthusiastic support at DFW.
The “Welcome Home a Hero” program has been nationally recognized as a model for civic participation and grew into one of the largest public service projects in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.
“Welcome Home A Hero” program volunteers greeted over 460,000 inbound soldiers transiting through DFW on their way home for two weeks of rest and recuperation from active duty in Iraq and in Afghanistan. Hundreds of local organizations and more than 10,000 individual volunteers have greeted about 2,700 incoming flights during the life of the program.
Counting a ten-week period of R&R flights that started in 2003, DFW hosted R&R flights from the U.S. Army’s Human Resources Command for a grand total of 2847 days, or about eight years.