CASCADE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — As nearly 1.5 million Michiganders hit the roads and skies this holiday week, Operation Handshake has focused on those who are returning to West Michigan.

“Our people put their lives on the line, the least we can do is acknowledge their service,” said organizer Phil Pakiea.

Pakiea, a veteran himself, said that when he returned from the Vietnam War there was no positive welcome home. Which is why he and other members of the Patriot Guard Riders and Blue Star Mothers lined the hallways of the Gerald R. Ford International Airport Wednesday to ensure a patriotic welcome to the men and women who have served or are still serving within the U.S. armed forces.

“You don’t see it often, so it’s great,” said U.S. Navy vet Jaykob Lamb, who is surprising his best friend this holiday season.

Lamb’s sentiments were echoed by active duty Army member Eric Kim. “It means a lot to everyone, especially those who are serving, those who have served and it’s just a special thing in America today.”

While the men and women were thanked for their service with a salute and a handshake, the sacrifices that service members families have made were also celebrated.

“My dad served 20 years in the Army,” said Mary Hitzler. “My son is currently in the Navy and he is on his first deployment with the Ford, the USS Gerald R. Ford carrier.”

Operation Handshake will return to the Ford Airport on Dec. 23 to welcome home service members for the Christmas holiday.