About 200 well-wishers turned out Sunday afternoon at the Portland International Jetport to welcome home 27 war veterans from a trip to Washington, D.C.

The veterans of World War II, the Korean and Vietnam wars were escorted through the airport terminal by the Guns N’ Hoses Pipes and Drums of Maine and honor guards from police and fire departments. The group had spent 2½ days visiting the World War II Memorial and other memorials in the nation’s capital on an all-expenses-paid trip sponsored by Honor Flight Maine.

“Beautiful. Fantastic,” Phil Campbell of Hiram, a World War II veteran, said of the trip.

Honor Flight was founded by physician assistant and retired Air Force Capt. Earl Morse of Ohio in 2005. Today there are 135 branches in 42 states. The Maine chapter started in 2014, and this was the third flight it organized.

Yvette Ramirez, the Maine chapter’s treasurer, said it takes $40,000, all raised by private donations, to finance one flight. Kennebunk Elementary School students managed to raise $4,000 of that.

The veterans are accompanied by “guardians,” usually a family member, who pay $500 toward their own travel expenses. Honor Flight picks up the rest of the guardians’ costs. There is a waiting list for future trips.

Those present for Sunday’s welcome-home ceremony included the Freeport Flag Ladies, members of local veterans groups, family members and friends, and a lot of people who said they just wanted to show their support for the veterans.

Dennis Robillard of Old Orchard Beach turned out because his 93-year-old father, a Massachusetts resident, went on a similar trip last year with Honor Flight New England. His father spent 18 months in a German prisoner-of-war camp during World War II after his plane was shot down.

Robillard joined his father on the Washington trip last year.

“It was an unbelievable experience. If I can come here to say thank you, that is the least I can do,” Robillard said.

Tanner Hoch and Liz Pagano, both of Portland and co-workers at Unum, decided to attend the ceremony after hearing about the trip at work, where they and their colleagues signed hundreds of cards thanking the veterans for their war service. Dressed in red, white and blue, the two waved American flags.

“It sounded like a fun event,” Hoch said.

A group of nine members of the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association also were on hand.

“There is nothing more important than World War II vets, the greatest generation,” said Paul Witten of Auburn, commander of the association.

Edward Legere, 87, of Cape Elizabeth, who did not go on the trip, and his grandson Adam Thurlow and great-grandson Mason Thurlow, 5, both of Saco, just wanted to show their support for the veterans. As a member of the Marine Corps, Legere was one of nine siblings to serve in uniform during World War II.

Family members of the vets said they were grateful for Honor Flight Maine.

Joyce and Harry Gray of Lewiston and their sister-in-law, Roseann Camillo of Marietta, Georgia, were there to greet Joyce Gray’s father, Joe Camillo, 93, a World War II Army veteran. Camillo, who lives with the Grays, was accompanied on the trip by his son, Joe Camillo Jr. of Marietta.

Janice Clark of Saco welcomed home her husband, Dick Clark, an Army sergeant during the Korean War, with a big kiss. Her husband said the trip was interesting.

“They kept us going,” he said.

Beth Quimby can be contacted at 791-6363 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: bquimby

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