Photo courtesy of Blue Ridge Honor Flight

Vietnam veterans from Asheville and Western North Carolina will be celebrated Saturday during a Blue Ridge Honor Flight that will send about 100 veterans to Washington, D.C., and back for a day of remembrance and recognition.

Blue Ridge Honor Flight’s mission is to take mountain veterans to the nation’s capital to see the memorials dedicated to them, their sacrifices and the memory of those that fought alongside them. Over the past 12 years, the program has taken thousands of World War II and Korean War veterans to Washington.

Saturday’s Blue Ridge Honor Flight is the first official flight consisting mostly of Vietnam War veterans. The program’s founder, Jeff Miller, says in a press release that the welcome home party at Asheville Regional Airport should be particularly moving because Vietnam veterans never received that embrace upon returning home at the time.

“The welcome home for these veterans is one of the most memorable and moving parts of this whole trip,” Miller says. “It means so much to them to have the welcome home they never got when they returned from the war, and it’s an amazing thing for bystanders to witness.”

Photo courtesy of Blue Ridge Honor Flight

Charter flights on U.S. Air or American Airlines transport the veterans to Washington, where charter buses and a police escort deliver them to the national war memorials. Hundreds of residents turn at the Asheville Regional Airport to see off the veterans and welcome them back.

Family, friends and community members are invited to come to the Asheville airport about 7 p.m. to await the arrival of the flight home. There will be refreshments and a table where folks can make “welcome home” signs.

Saturday’s event will also include a special edition of Music on the Fly, the music program that brings live, local music to the airport each month. Savannah Smith & Southern Soul, an Asheville-based band with a soulful, North Mississippi sound, will be the featured performer.

For more information about Blue Ridge Honor Flight, to make a donation or to get a veteran signed up for a flight, go to blueridgehonorflight.com.

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