WASHINGTON, July 26, 2014 —
The oldest living female World War II veteran, 108-year-old Lucy Coffey, received a hero's welcome here yesterday.
Coffey, who served with the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps, flew from San Antonio to Washington for a two-day trip to see the World War II Memorial and other sites.
After arriving to the cheers of a crowd at Washington’s Reagan National Airport, Coffey was taken to the White House where she was a special guest of President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.
"America's sweetheart, Lucy Coffey, 108-year-old WWII veteran went from Texas to the Whitehouse!" reads the caption of a picture posted on the Honor Flight Austin's Facebook page featuring Coffey with Obama and Biden.
Before Coffey’s flight arrived in Washington, airport staff announced on the public address system that she was on her way.
Greeters who gathered at the gate included uniformed members of all five services, veterans, USO and Honor Flight volunteers, children and even travelers who were beckoned by the announcement.
Coffey’s plane was given a water-cannon salute.
Army Staff Sgt. Floyd James Moss, who is stationed at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling in Washington, D.C., said this was his first honor flight, and he was happy to be on hand to welcome Coffey.
"This is extremely important to us. She's one of our own," he said, noting Coffey is a trailblazer who "paved the way through that time" when military women faced great challenges.
Army Spc. Shikina McCargo, also stationed at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, said it was exciting to come out and honor Coffey.
"Speechless," she said, when asked about how she felt after welcoming the veteran. "I feel like it's a [once-in-a-] lifetime experience."
Joe Manning was dressed to the nines in a red, swing dance suit, complete with red and white shoes, and a red hat with a feather in it.
A few other members of the crowd were dressed in a similar style, to give Coffey a welcome that heralded to "back in the day."
Welcoming the nation's veterans is just "something that needs to be done," Manning said.
"A lot of these folks never got any recognition at all, they just came home, got off the bus, went home and went to work," he said. "They get all emotional thanking us [for greeting them at the airport] and we're trying to thank them for what they did."
His daughter, Lynn Manning, who was visiting from Texas, was able to greet Coffey and share the experience with her father.
"It's really awesome; it's really wonderful," she said.
Navy veteran Bob Beebe is a volunteer greeter with the airport's Honor Flight group, and he often welcomes former service members who visit Washington on Honor Flights.
The veterans deserve this honor, he said, noting some service members from past conflicts did not get a big welcome when they returned home.
"They never got the parades and the 'Welcome Homes' that they deserved," Beebe said.
Susan Fines, who was holding a handmade welcome sign, said she drove about two hours to be at the airport. Her sign said: “Welcome to D.C. Ms. Lucy. Thanks for your service. You are a hero.”’
Coffey is “a hero, just like my sign says," Fines said.
Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Lori Kelly, who is stationed at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, was alongside Fines and Beebe waiting for Coffey to arrive.
"I'm here to honor Ms. Lucy," said Kelly, as she held a bouquet of flowers for the incoming veteran.
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