Oh, what a heartwarming scene it was, as Welcome Home Military Heroes and Honor Flight came together to welcome home our beloved veterans! Over 70 of our Heroes, who had fought in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam, were welcomed back to Santa Maria Airport with open arms. The significance of this event cannot be overstated, for it was the first time Honor Flight had ever taken such a large group of veterans on a flight, almost triple their average. And to make it even more special, it was the first time they flew in and out of Santa Maria Airport.

As soon as the news of the event spread, Welcome Home Military Heroes put their hearts and souls into making it an unforgettable experience. They aimed to break the previous record of 315 people to welcome back the Honor Flight, and after months of marketing, radio interviews, and social media posts, over 1,000 people showed up to support our veterans! It was a sight to behold, and one that brought tears to our eyes, as the crowd broke the record not only for the Honor Flight but also for the largest welcome home event ever on the central coast. The previous record was held by San Luis Obispo Airport when the Co-founder of Welcome Home Military Heroes, Robert Tolan arrived home from Afghanistan, with over 550 people in attendance.

Despite the flight being delayed by more than an hour due to a bathroom issue, the excitement and anticipation never waned. People started arriving three hours before the original briefing time, eager to show their gratitude to the brave men and women who had served our country. Cheryl Tolan, Secretary/Treasurer for WHMH, was moved by the overwhelming support, saying that over a dozen nonprofit organizations were in attendance, including multiple chapters of the American Legion, the Patriot Guard Riders, Vietnam Veterans of America, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Daughters of the American Revolution, Band of Brothers, Marine Corps League, Girl Scouts of America and so many more.

But that’s not all, for the support came pouring in from every corner of the community. Vandenberg Space Force Base sent five different units to show their respect, and there was a large police presence from the San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Sheriffs, and the Santa Maria Police Department. We also had the San Luis Obispo District Attorney and Army National Guardsman Dan Dow present. And to top it all off, people of all ages, from 10 months old to a remarkable 102-year-old World War II veteran, were in attendance. The sight of young children waving American flags alongside elderly veterans was a poignant reminder that the sacrifice of these heroes spans multiple generations and continues to inspire and unite us.

The overwhelming love and support shown to our veterans that day was a testament to the unbreakable bond between these heroes and their fellow citizens. It was a moment that brought tears to our eyes and filled our hearts with gratitude and pride for the brave men and women who have served our country.

In case you’re interested in attending an event, please visit the link for Welcome Home Military Heroes below. And if you’re a Veteran looking forward to embarking on the “Tour of Honor” Honor Flight, kindly click on the link provided below.

Welcome Home Military Heroes

Honor Flight Central Coast

Kindly find below some links to local media coverage of this event:

KSBY News – Hundreds greet veterans returning from Honor Flight

KEYT – Veterans welcomed home from Honor Flight in Santa Maria

Santa Maria Times – Massive crowd celebrates return of veterans after Honor Flight to Washington  

Photos below from Welcome Home Military Heroes, Santa Maria Times, KSBY, and others who submitted/posted them.