East Texas veterans return home from Brookshire’s Heroes Flight

Veterans greeted by family and friends at Tyler Pounds Airport after three-day trip to Washington D.C.
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Updated: May. 25, 2019 at 10:45 PM CDT
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TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - On the flight back home to East Texas, Army veteran Hilton Lytle sat up front and played his harmonica. When he started to play Amazing Grace, the other veterans began singing.

Not long after that, names were called from the front of the plane. A delivery was being made 35,000 feet in the air. Mail call meant a lot to these guys back then, and it still does.

One of the letters in WWII veteran Howard “Boots” Early’s package was from his oldest son.

“Dear, Dad," Early read. “I love you so much for all of the sacrifices you have made for us to be a free country. I am very thankful for all you have done not only for your country, but also for your family. I love you very much. Signed Joe.”

Letters from children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren. Some of them were drawn in crayon, others were typed.

“I got one here from my brother-in-law,” Navy veteran Jim Childers said. “I didn’t even know he liked me!”

As the plane touched down at Tyler Pounds Regional Airport, there was a final water cannon salute. And as the veterans walked inside, a hero’s welcome was waiting.

There were kisses for sweethearts and strong handshakes for brothers.

“This is my 97-year-old brother I was telling you about,” Longview veteran Raymond Fleming said. “He’s the young fella in the family!”

A hand-written sign, a banner, and his family greeted Fleming as he walked into the terminal.

“Well I’m just happy that I’ve got a family this big that loves me and I love them,” Fleming said. “Without them, I am nothing.”

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