Patriot Guards welcome military members home at Ford Airport

Kent County

CASCADE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — A welcome home for West Michigan troops was on tap for the Thanksgiving holiday at the Gerald R. Ford International Airport. 

The Patriot Guard Riders, therapy dog teams and volunteers took part in “Operation Handshake” Wednesday. It’s an event to welcome home returning military members and veterans as well as thank them for their service.

“The satisfaction of knowing that these guys are getting a welcome home,” said Tony Vangessel, Patriot Guard Riders captain. “Last year, we had a World War II veteran get off the plane, and we said, ‘yeah, this is for you.’ He broke down crying, had a never been welcomed home before.”

Volunteers staffed both airport concourses from 9 a.m. until 7 p.m. The event is free and open to the public. 

If you have a family member in the military or know a veteran coming home through the Gerald R. Ford International Airport, notify the Patriot Guard Riders of returning military member’s arrival time and flight information. Information can be sent to Tony VanGessel at 616-862-1984 or

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