Seventy-five years after they fought in the Battle of the Bulge, more than a dozen World War II veterans from across the country have traveled to France for a week-long trip to commemorate the epic battle.
The 17 veterans, who now are in their mid-to late 90s, received the red-carpet treatment Tuesday night as they departed from Logan Airport, where the walls of Terminal E10 were lined with photographs of the men from their service days.
Proud friends and family waved homemade signs and celebrated with American flag cupcakes as they filled the terminal decorated with Star Spangled balloons.
As they waited to board their Air France flight, the veterans sipped sparkling cider out of champagne flutes and snacked on brie. Law enforcement officials gave each of the veterans an honorary coin to thank them for their service.
Massachusettts’ Secretary of Veterans Services Francisco Ureña, one of several officials who spoke during the send off ceremony, said he hoped that everyone going on the flight “would connect with the veterans and listen to their stories.”
“The reason why they and everybody on this flight is flying to a French-speaking country is because of the sacrifice of these men and that generation that resolved . . . to finish the battle and not allow Germany to advance an extra inch,” Ureña said.
The trip was organized by Boston’s Wounded Vetarans, a nonprofit based in Winthrop that raised tens of thousands of dollars to finance the trip that will include stops in France, Luxembourg and Belgium to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the battle.
Their agenda includes a ceremony at the Bastogne War Museum in Belgium where they will dedicate a monument plate in honor of those killed in action. They will also meet with King Philippe of Belgium and return to places where they served.
The battle, a surprise counterattack by German forces, took place in the forested Ardennes region of Belgium from Dec. 16, 1944, to Jan. 25, 1945 in frigid, snowy conditions. The Allies checked the German offensive, at a cost of huge American casualties, hastening the end of the war.
John Katsaros of Haverhill, who fought with the 8th Air Force and 401st Bomber Group, said “It’s wonderful to be able [go] back” to his old battleground.
Katsaros, 96, wrote a book “Code Burgundy - The Long Escape,” which chronicles his capture by the Gestapo, rescue by the French Underground, and eventual escape through Spain.
“Number one it took faith. Number two luck. Number three help. And number four guts and the will to survive,” he said.
Colleen LaGrasso held a poster celebrating her grandfather Francis X. Murphy, of Whitman, from the 83rd Airdrome Squad.
“He’ll tell you right off the bat he’s not a hero,” said LaGrasso, 54, of Canton. “He always says the boys under those white crosses are the heroes. When he was at Normandy Beach, he just wanted to kneel and say a prayer.”
“My grandfather is a blessing,” she said.
Crystal Roberts is accompanying her husband, Ernie Roberts, of Rhode Island, from the 87th Infantry Division.
She recalled her husband’s overwhelming desire to serve his country. He signed up at 17, so his mother had to give permission for him to enlist, she said.
“He didn’t want to go back at first because he saw so much there,” Roberts said. “But now, we’re both excited to go.”
Sofia Saric can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @sofia_saric.