For some veterans who will participate in the final Jasper County Freedom Flight this week, Sunday’s hero’s welcome was long overdue.

Six World War II, 34 Korean War, 83 Vietnam War and 19 Vietnam-era veterans entered Newton Senior High School on Sunday afternoon to the cheers of an enthusiastic crowd. The veterans received a motorcycle escort from the Iowa Speedway to Newton Senior High School by dozens of Patriot Guard Riders and Legion Riders for a send-off ceremony before Tuesday’s trip to Washington, D.C., to view the war memorials.

Hundreds of area residents joined the veterans in the school gym for the event. Freedom Flight organizer Doug Bishop led the ceremony, and Newton resident and Vietnam War veteran Steve Bookout gave the keynote address. Bookout described war as being full of sights and sounds a person wants to forget but always remembers.

“For many, it’s going to be a trip of healing,” Bookout said of the Freedom Flight.

Bishop said he was pleased with Sunday’s send-off event.

“It’s always great to see the citizens of Jasper County come together to show their respect,” he said.

The veterans will depart the high school at 5 a.m. Tuesday to leave for Washington, D.C.

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