A flight crew wearing yellow ribbons and American flags Friday greeted U.S. soldiers making the long trip home from the Persian Gulf.
At takeoff early Friday from Dhahran, the soldiers of the 82nd Airborne Division cheered, whooped and pumped their fists into the air. "That's it! Goodbye Saudi Arabia!," one soldier shouted as the plane left the ground.The plane made a two-hour refueling stopover at the U.S. Rhein-Main Air Base near Frankfurt before proceeding to North Carolina's Pope Air Force Base.
In Frankfurt, a holding area was lined wall-to-wall with banners reading, "Welcome back" and "We're proud of you."
The troops were among the first of the U.S. forces to leave the gulf. Some aboard the flight were on the first plane arriving there seven months ago.
"I think they deserve a heroes' welcome," said Karen Rose, an on-board service manager for Northwest Airlines. She was one of 22 flight attendants aboard a 747 carrying over 300 paratroopers back to Fort Bragg, near Fayetteville, N.C.
The flight attendants wore yellow ribbons and U.S. flags pinned to their uniforms. One crew member hung a banner signed by hundreds of well-wishers from Oklahoma City, his hometown.
"We just want to show our guys and girls we are extremely proud of what they did. I just did not want Vietnam repeated," said Oklahoma's Jerry Cymova, a station manager with Northwest Airlines aboard the flight.
All the flight attendants had volunteered to be on the plane carrying the troops.
"We promised them when we dropped them off we'd be back to pick them up. We wanted to bring them home," said Ann Sapa of Boston, a flight attendant. Sapa worked on flights carrying troops to Saudi Arabia last fall.
After boarding the flight, the soldiers packed their combat helmets in the overhead compartments and tucked M-16 rifles and machine guns beneath the seats in front of them.
During the flight, members of the plane's crew sang military cadence over the loud-speaker to the cheers of jubilant soldiers.
Dennis Tetler, the chief flight attendant thanked the paratroopers for upholding "the American values of justice and peace. You have our utmost respect and gratitude. God bless you all."