A group of local Vietnam veterans make sure the troops always return to a warm northern Illinois welcome.
Early Friday morning a group of almost 200 hundred soldiers step off a plane at the Rockford International Airport. To celebrate their stop in Rockford, two of those on board signed on for another tour of duty, It's called a rededication ceremony. There to witness it, another group of soldiers dedicated to making sure the troops return to a hero's welcome.
mark lawrence president chapter 984 vietnam veterans of america "We do this to make sure they get the welcome home we never recieved, and make sure that all the heroes that come home, the men and the women, to make sure they get the welcome home they deserve and make sure they're on the right steps to get the help they need."
This is the one hundreth flight the local chapter of the Vietnam Veterans of America has welcomed home since May 2007. When troops get off the plane, the vets give them with food and drinks. More importantly they have cell phones, giving the soldiers a chance to make that important first call to tell loved one's they're out of harm's way and headed home.
"A lot of them haven't talked to their parents or their wives or their children too, they always dont know when they come home, they have some way to tell them i'm on the ground, im in rockford, ill be home in a couple of hours," Lawrence said.
They also have a chance to share stories of their return. Lawrence was injured when he came home, but when he recuperated he continued his education, starting at rock valley college. Ogle county native, Specialist Ryan Long, is returning from a year tour in Iraq. He has similar plans now that he's back.
"One of the main reasons I joined was the vets and my respect for them, i'm just finishing up my sixth year tour "and what are you doing now that you're home, I'll be going to college in Rockford."
Thursday night, a banner was dedicated in preparation for the 100th flight, the hope is to get every soldier who passes through RFD to leave their name as evidence they came through Rockford's military gateway on their way home.
The Vietnam vets have a number of partnerships with food providers and cell phone companies.. that donate food and phones for our troops.

To donate head to www.VVA.org/VVAChapter 984.html
The VVA holds meetings on the third tuesday of each month from 7-8:30 p.m. at Don Carter Lanes.