JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

A group of St. Johns County firefighters was so impressed with Herb Griffin's military service, including his medals of honor, that they felt compelled to send the World War II veteran back to the beaches of Normandy for the 70th anniversary of D-Day.

Griffin returned home to Jacksonville International Airport on Wednesday night and was met with a hero's welcome.

Young, old, friends, neighbors and men in military uniforms all turned out to welcome Griffin back to North Florida.

“What can I say,” Griffin said. “Nothing like this in the world. I didn't know I had this many friends. This is wonderful.”

The firefighters of station 3865 raised hundreds of dollars for Griffin's trip. Griffin's brother traveled with him to France, and their tour guide was a World War II historian.

It was the gift of a lifetime for Griffin — a visit back to the beaches where he fought in World War II.

“(I) enjoyed being back where I was 70 years ago,” Griffin said. “Everybody was so nice to us. It was a good feeling.”

But reminiscing about his time at war wasn't the only reason this trip was important to Griffin.

“(I) went to show my respect for the ones that didn't come back and honor them,” Griffin said. “Because that's the real heroes.”