"We are touching World War II," said Commander Paul Alberts. "In a couple of years, WWII will all be gone and so this is their way to connect."
Members of the Firefighters Highland Guard of Naperville, the Chicago Police Departments pipes and drums and world class bagpipers greeted the soldiers, now mostly in their 80s, as they returned from a busy day.
Michael Cole is retired Chicago teacher who is playing here as part of Pipes and Sticks on Route 66, a group of five musicians who will make this kind of music on a cross country trip on Route 66 to raise money for honor flight.
"The emotion that is involved in seeing these men and women experiencing this welcome home, many of them never had it is hard to put into words it chokes me up just about every time I see it," said Cole.
Cole's father and father-in-law were World War II veterans who did not live to see their monuments in Washington. Cole and his friends will raffle off their instruments on the course of their travels to Pasadena to make sure his father's comrades get to the nation's capital.
"To be able to use it in a setting like this, to enhance the emotion to make things add a little more dignity to the ceremony, it's an honor," Cole said.
For the veterans, the emotion of the day is supercharged when they get home and it would seem to a man they're grateful for the homage paid to their service, even if it was awhile coming.
"It was overwhelming," said World War II veteran Richard Schofield. "I mean, I couldn't imagine that this many people would turn out. I never thought people feel the way they do."