Marines, others welcome WWII vets to the Big Easy

Marines, others welcome WWII vets to the Big Easy

LCpl Alan Rodriguez, fiscal clerk with Headquarters Battalion, Marine Forces Reserve, welcomes a WWII veteran as he arrives to the Louis C. Armstrong Airport in New Orleans, June 24, 2015. Rodriguez, along with other Marines from MARFORRES, and other service members and volunteers, participated in the welcome ceremony organized by the Gary Sinise Foundation. The veterans flew to New Orleans to visit the WWII Museum in downtown New Orleans. Photo by MSgt Katesha Washington.

NEW ORLEANS (June 24, 2015) - Marines from Marine Forces Reserve, along with countless other service members and local volunteers, made a special trip to the Louis C. Armstrong International Airport, June 24, 2015, to welcome nearly 50 World War II veterans to the Crescent City.

The veterans arrived to the airport later than scheduled, as large crowds anxiously gathered to give the men, also known as the "Greatest Generation," thunderous applause and cheers. Academy Award nominated actor Gary Sinise and assistants from the Gary Sinise Foundation, traveled with the men, most in their late 80s and 90s, to escort them to the National World War II Museum as part of a program that honors veterans for their service and sacrifice.

As stated on the organization's website, the mission of the foundation is to "serve our nation by honoring our defenders, veterans, first responders, their families, and those in need. We do this by creating and supporting unique programs designed to entertain, educate, inspire, strengthen, and build communities."

For several of the young Marines who volunteered to welcome the veterans, seeing the men was likened to witnessing a living, breathing part of military and world history.

"I am honored to have the opportunity to come out and show my respect for the sacrifices these gentlemen made for our country," explained Sgt Joshua Derrick, training noncommissioned officer-in-charge for Headquarters Battalion, MarForRes. "It's important that we continue to acknowledge everything they have done and to let them know we haven't forgotten the sacrifices they made and everything they've been through."

Derrick, who is also the Marine Corps funeral coordinator in the New Orleans region, witnesses funeral honors rendered to veterans on a regular basis and understands more than most how significant the hero's welcome ceremony was for such a revered group of men.

"They won't be here forever so I think it's very important that we show our respect to them while they are here and as much as possible," he said.

Although Derrick and his fellow Marines gave the men the most enthusiastic welcome they could muster, even young children from local junior baseball leagues were overwhelmed by the presence of the veterans and screamed to the top of their lungs to show their support.

"U.S.A., U.S.A.! Thank you for your service!" the kids shouted.

LCpl Alan Rodriguez, fiscal clerk for MarForRes, graduated from boot camp just ten months ago. Today, he stood proud to say that he serves in the same armed forces that fought in such a turbulent time such as World War II.

"I think it's a wonderful that we can be here to honor these veterans. Their presence shows that although they went through a lot during their time in uniform, they are strong and have done so much for this country," said Rodriguez.

The veterans were appreciative of the show of support and looked forward to their visit to the museum and tour through the city.

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