HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - The red carpet has been rolled out in Huntsville for wounded veterans visiting north Alabama. They're here to take part in a series of special events for Veterans Day.
Heroes Week kicked off with a big welcome for a group of veterans at Huntsville International Airport. The wounded warriors and their families are from all over the country.
Heroes Week is hosted by the Semper Fi Community Task Force of north Alabama and its now in its 11th year. The organization is dedicated to making sure all those who served get the proper welcome home.
"We will celebrate the service of our wounded warriors and our heroes of the past wars, so it's a great time for us to come together as a community," said retired Lt. Gen. Willie Williams with the Semper Fi Community Task Force.
There was a big smile on Ryan Craig's face as he landed in Huntsville with his parents Wednesday. They traveled all the way from Oregon. And when they arrived, they were greeted by a cheering crowd of hundreds. Folks lined the walkways with signs and flags to cheer.
"It's a lot nicer than the welcome I got when I got home from Iraq," said Craig, who is a wounded Army veteran.
"It was awesome. We were just talking about it. I had so many friends who came back from Vietnam and never got anything like this. It's great what people are doing now. It's amazing. It really is," said his stepfather, Ron Miller.
Motorcycle groups made up of veterans and law enforcement were also there to give rides and provide an escort to the hotel.
"Some of them are injured while they're out and in the hospital and they don't come back with their units. In that case, the community doesn't get the opportunity to say thank you, so we bring them in from all over," Williams said.
Organizers say Huntsville is the perfect place for the veterans and their families to visit because of its patriotism and strong support of the military.
"Very patriotic and you'll see that throughout the week as these wounded warriors are out and about, engaging with the community and visiting the schools, talking to the kids. This community has just been so welcoming for them, so it's been great," Williams said.
There's a lot more in store for the veterans who arrived in Huntsville on Wednesday and for all local veterans, with different events over the next several days. It leads up to the big Veterans Day Parade in downtown Huntsville Saturday.
The preparade program starts promptly at 10 a.m. in Veterans Memorial Park. A ceremony for Boots on the Square will be held at the memorial. There will be opening comments and then family members will bring boots belonging to their veterans forward and present them for placement at the center of the memorial.
If you would like to take part in Boots on the Square, select a pair of shoes to display in honor of your veteran. Copy a 5X7 or smaller photo of the veteran on a regular sheet of paper and write or type the veteran's name, service and time served. Write a short paragraph or two about the veteran and/or your relationship to the veteran. Bring the shoes and picture with story to Below the Radar through 6 p.m. Friday. Pick up your shoes and stories after 6 p.m. on Veterans Day at the memorial. Shoes not picked up by 7 p.m. will be donated to charity.
The parade starts at the Veterans Memorial Park and will be aired live on WAFF 48 News at 11 a.m.
Copyright 2017 WAFF. All rights reserved.