COLUMBIA, Mo. - Nearly 70 veterans from mid-Missouri returned to Columbia late Tuesday night after a milestone Honor Flight originally shrouded in uncertainty.
Despite a government shutdown of national parks, the Central Missouri Honor Flight and others have been allowed into memorials in Washington, D.C.
"It's not political," said Boonville radio host and Vietnam veteran Dane Gregg. "It's to honor our veterans and our military from World War One on and you can't make this a political football."
Gregg was greeted by his family and dozens of Boonville residents when the Honor Flight buses returned to Columbia's Courtyard by Marriott around 10:30 p.m.
As wife Jackie watched, holding her breath, Gregg walked off the bus and into a sea of supporters.
"Everywhere we went, they clapped and thanked us for our service," he said. "It was just unbelievable; all day long we were treated like we had done something good."
For Gregg, that's a feeling he's not used to. He told ABC 17 News he only truly embraced his Vietnam veteran identity after 9/11 because of a the stigma of the conflict.
"We came back, we were spat upon, called baby killers and rapists," Gregg explained. "I lost faith, I was embarrassed to be in the military."
After his trip with Central Missouri Honor Flight, Gregg said he had never felt so much support and pride - regardless of the political football in the nation's capital. He said no veteran should feel discouraged by talk of closures, shutdowns or any personal insecurities.
"If you think you don't deserve to go, you do. So go," he laughed.
The group visited the Vietnam War memorial, World War II memorial, Iwo Jima monument and Tomb of the Unknowns, among others.
Central Missouri Honor Flight was joined in Washington, D.C. Tuesday by groups from Arkansas, Kansas and Chicago.