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Oct-14-2008 08:43printcommentsVideo

An Iraq War Veterans' Welcome Home to Remember (SLIDESHOW)

Salem-News.com photojournalist Tim King has returned from Iraq, where he spent several weeks embedded with an Oregon Guard unit. Along the way he witnessed a hero's welcome at the Dallas/Ft. Worth Airport for soldiers and Marines returning home from Iraq.


(DALLAS, Tx.) - It isn't often that a legacy can change.

The sound of clapping hands is an unexpected greeting for soldiers and Marines returning home from the war in Iraq. Too many stories about mistreated Vietnam vets leave an expectation of something totally different.

In fact, it takes a moment for these troops returning home on the military R&R flights to even comprehend the idea of dozens and dozens of people gathered there to simply welcome them home, but that is what happens almost every day at the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport in Texas.

I had the rare and unusual honor of experiencing this 'hero's welcome' first-hand, as a reporter returning to the states from Iraq. I was able to see the disbelief on the faces of these warriors, and sense their shock and surprise.

It started with a few people clapping, then quickly became a growing round of applause that lasted for several minutes. We walked a level above the gathering of people who were visible through large windows, then wound our way down a floor and into a red, white and blue hug and handshake zone.

This Dallas/Ft. Worth welcoming committee has been standing at the International gate since 2004, according to Donna Cranston from the group, defendersoffreedom.us. Her group is often behind the welcome back events, along with volunteers like Diane Ratley, daughter of a WWII Veteran, whose son has served a tour in Iraq.

Vietnam Veteran Chuck Lechner says his primary reason for spending so many days at the airport, "is to keep the torch lit for these men and women who serve in Afghanistan and Iraq." Lechner says he will never let veterans feel abandoned or forgotten.

Reporter Tim King with organizers Donna Cranston and Diane
Ratley at a Dallas/Ft. Worth Airport welcome home event. Tim had
just returned to the states after five weeks of war coverage in Iraq

Another member of this welcoming crew that served in Vietnam is Randy Grizzle. "It is something we didn't get when we returned home from SE Asia," he said. Randy talked about the importance of the welcoming, and says it can signify a positive reception for often combat weary veterans. He believes it is extremely meaningful for everyone involved.

"They said 35 years ago that Vietnam would be 'the last war', weren't they wrong about that?" he asked.

I had just spent the last five weeks covering military operations in Iraq. It was a breeze next to any military combat tour, but still a significant amount of time to spend away from home in a combat zone.

The last war I had covered was Afghanistan about a year and a half earlier. That return trip was through the airport at Baltimore, and there was no welcome home celebration.

The Texans really have the right side of patriotism in mind with this ongoing effort to offer thanks and welcome home those who serve. It makes a big difference, for our military and for our society at large. I find it to be remarkable and fortunate that a war photographer like myself can personally attest to that.

Later, I was there when a plane arrived with soldiers and Marines from Afghanistan, and the welcoming was repeated.

If you are ever in the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport, walk over to the International arrival side and look for people with flags and bright smiles. Join in if your timing is really good, and tell a servicemember thanks and welcome home, they will probably tell people about it for the rest of their life.

Here are photos from Tim King's MySpace page, myspace.com/timsalemnews, of the returning soldiers and the people of the Dallas/Ft. Worth area who take the time to welcome them home from the wars overseas.


Tim King is a former U.S. Marine with twenty years of experience on the west coast as a television news producer, photojournalist, reporter and assignment editor. In addition to his role as a war correspondent, this Los Angeles native serves as Salem-News.com's Executive News Editor.
Tim spent the winter of 2006/07 in Afghanistan with Oregon troops. His coverage from Iraq has now commenced and will be ongoing throughout the next many weeks. Serving the community in very real terms, Salem-News.com is the nation's only truly independent high traffic news Website, affiliated with Google News and several other major search engines and news aggregators.
You can send Tim an email at this address: newsroom@salem-news.com

CLICK HERE to learn more about sponsoring this news mission

Comments Leave a comment on this story.

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G/2-3; October 19, 2008 4:59 am (Pacific time)

welcome home. You were not forgotten.

Anonymous October 18, 2008 12:47 pm (Pacific time)

a couple of minor details tim did not mention.. I still believe it was a waste of time. But those who want to be part of this "group" will suck up without any knowledge of what is going on. DO you feel important now???



Tim King: Please note that this article is about a reception and a welcoming ceremony.  I did not try to weave politics into it, and if you see my reports from Iraq, they are far from glowing when it comes to U.S. policy, etc.  But my mission for now is to simply show the stories as they happen in front of me.  I was pleased to see the looks on these soldier's faces and it was good for them psycologically.  It is not about politics, and that is my point.  Please PLEASE don't take my reports as advocacy for what has happened under Bush's watch, that is not the case.  I made hyper links to the articles you sent so that people can see what is going on with Sadr, etc.  I have included in recent reports a number of problems with negotiations that are taking place right now.  In any case,  the people in this war need our support and blaming them for the failed policies of the Bush administration is not helpful. 

Henry Ruark October 14, 2008 8:22 pm (Pacific time)

Great to have you back, Tim...and old harness awaits for more effort, too !! Said it before here, and will repeat: Overseas reporting is king of the hill, no pun, and you have so proven now, repeatedly and better this last time, as comments have clearly demonstrated.

Larry October 14, 2008 10:44 am (Pacific time)

We need more stories like this that talk about the better side of Americans. Iraq is a horrible war that should never have started, but we can not ever forget those who serve.  Vietnam was also a very negative time in our national history, but the people had no right to treat those who served with such cruelty  Maybe we have learned from our past after all..

Bonnie King October 14, 2008 10:02 am (Pacific time)

Welcome HOME Tim!! We're so glad to have you back on Oregon soil, happy, healthy and with irons in the fire. It just wasn't the same without you. I'm so pleased that you were welcomed with applause along with the soldiers, very cool. All we Kings and SNc friends wish we could have been part of that cheering crowd, what a great thing to do! And certainly a great way to start off our folks' return "to the world". Good job Tim, the stories have been commendable and I look forward to future productions on your time in Iraq. Your break's over, back to work. Love you! 

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