Kerry receives warm welcome at Columbia Regional Airport

Friday, April 30, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 3:29 a.m. CDT, Saturday, July 5, 2008

Wilma Droz Miller and her friend Ginny Van Hove arrived at the Columbia Regional Airport at 9 this morning to wait for Sen. John Kerry's plane to land.

"We're hoping that there's a lot of people here to greet him because we hope he gets a good reception," Miller said.

More than two hours later, raindrops were beginning to hit the ground as Kerry stepped out of his plane. A group of veterans were allowed to greet the presidential candidate hopeful before he continued on to Fulton, where he would speak at Westminster College.

"I know John personally and was with him on the Mall in 1971," said Randy Barnes, of Kansas City, who said he served as a combat medic with the 25th Infantry of the U.S. Army in the Vietnam War. "I've always respected him and his high moral standards."

Like others veterans in the crowd of fewer than two dozen, Barnes showed his support for Kerry by wearing a button that read "Veteran for Kerry."

As he descended the steps of the plane, Kerry waved to fans, then stopped to point at a sign Miller carried. Miller said she had hoped the sign, which read "DON DROZ, MY COUSIN," would catch Kerry's eye -- she said Don Droz had fought in the Vietnam War and was killed there. He had been a friend of Kerry's, Miller said.

After shaking hands and hugging the veterans, Kerry walked past his motorcade and straight up to Miller, who stood behind a fence with her friend. He took the sign from her and posed for photos with her and her friends.

Kerry said he wanted to shake her hand, and, after having the gate of the fence opened, gave her a hug.

"I'm so touched," he said to the people who had gathered around him. "I looked out of the plane and I just said, 'Wow.'"

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