Just about every morning for the past year, Bert Brady has been getting up, having a cup of coffee and heading over to the Dallas Fort Worth Airport. But this ritual has nothing to do with travel. He's at the terminal to welcome home American troops as they return from Iraq and Afghanistan.
"I went 300 days last year," Brady said. "They are glad to see us, and we are tickled to death to see them because they are our heroes."
Brady, a 69-year-old veteran, is a member of the Welcome Home a Hero program at his local airport. He makes sure every soldier that comes through Dallas gets a special homecoming.
And he has reached out to almost anyone who will join him.
"We have people who only come on weekends. We have people who come during the week," Brady said. "We have a lot of support from the Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts."
Veterans Stick Together
Brady shows up each day with the goal of making soldiers feel appreciated and proud of their service. He's often joined by veterans of the Vietnam and Korean wars who did not get a warm reception when they returned from battle.
"We are not going to forget them like a lot of Vietnam soldiers have been forgotten," Brady said. "We are not going to forget the soldiers of today."
One Korean War vet working with Brady added, "We owe it to them. They're doing a good job for us. When I came home in 1954, there was nobody, no nothing."
And for Brady, it's simply "rewarding" to greet the soldiers.
"You can't make 200 people happy and not feel that. Ninety-five percent of them are smiling, and you never can tell if one of their buddies has just died in their arms yesterday," he said. "So you get all kinds of emotion coming through."
And the soldiers appreciate the efforts. "It's great. … They took the time out of their day to be here," one soldier said.
"It's incredible to see the support," said one soldier's wife, who was in tears. "Everybody cheering him on … it's a little embarrassing, but we appreciate it."
When asked why he is so dedicated to this effort, Brady pointed to a moment he shared with one soldier.
"He said, 'Mister, I will never forget you,' and my heart was almost pounding like it was going to burst out of my chest," Brady said. "He said, 'It's the greatest thing that ever happened to me.'"