Flying veterans to Washington, D.C., is our mission, but our best chance to say “Thank you,” and the most emotional part of the day, comes with our return to Chicago.

As the veterans step off the airplane at Midway, they are met by thousands of family members, friends, colleagues and strangers who line the terminal halls and baggage claim to cheer, say “Thank you for your service” and provide the welcome home many veterans never received.

There is applause. There are tears. And in that moment, for many of our veterans, a change happens.

They gain new perspectives on the impact of their service, on the potential for their lives moving forward, and on the power of two words: Thank you.