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FT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – A group of South Florida veterans is back home after a whirlwind tour of Washington, D.C.

“I haven’t been to Washington for about 25 years, so I’m anxious to see the new memorials they have there,” World War II veteran Dorothy Waxman said before boarding the flight at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport before dawn Saturday.

In all, 76 World War II Veterans, along with a vet from Korea and another from Vietnam, departed for the Honor Flight, a trip designed to allow these brave men and women a chance to see the memorials dedicated to their service and sacrifice.

Upon landing in Washington D.C. they received a hero’s welcome.

“This is so much fun. The veterans are coming. It’s such a great opportunity to say thank you and show your support,” said well-wisher Mary Key Eldridge.

“They were very, very grandiose in their welcome. It felt good,” said World War II veteran Julian Benjamin.

Even retired U.S. Senator Bob Dole greeted the group of vets from South Florida when they arrived at the memorial.

”I’m amazed by the effusion and appreciation expressed by the people involved,” veteran Jack Victor said.

“Always nice to be recognized,” added Sheldon Zeiger.

After a solemn stop at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the group returned to the airport and hopped on the plane to go back home, where Zeiger’s daughter shared this letter her father wrote just after the war ended.

“Letters rate the best for guys. Even above packages. I haven’t seen a guy yet who wouldn’t rather have a letter than a package,” she read.

And letters are exactly what they got on the flight back home, messages from family, friends and strangers, who wanted to say “Thank You.”

“We are very grateful for the sacrifices you have made for all of us. It takes a special person to defend our nation. Thank you for your service,” veteran Pete Bouvier read from one of the letters.

“The trip was worth a billion dollars to me for what you people have done and the cheers we got,” said Korean War vet John Musser Jr.

The trip was made possible thanks to Honor Flight South Florida, which raises money so veterans from Miami-Dade, Broward and Monroe counties can fly to the capitol for a tour of the memorials, for free.

Lauren Pastrana