BELFAST, Maine — Herman Dyer’s walk may be slow and halting, but the 90-year-old World War II veteran’s smile is just as quick as it ever was.

That smile was out in force early Friday morning, as the Belfast resident and Navy Seabee set off in a small Cessna airplane on a mission to Washington, D.C., thanks to Honor Flight Maine. Women held signs to cheer him on, men and women in uniform greeted him and an Anah Temple Shrine bagpiper played a solemn tune as Dyer made his measured way across the tarmac. From Belfast, he’d go to Portland, where he would join 24 other World War II veterans from around the state on another flight south.

“I never expected this kind of turnout,” Dyer said as he shook hand after hand before getting into the airplane. “I think it’s something unusual. It’s beautiful.”

The Honor Flight Network, a nationwide group of nonprofit organizations that includes Honor Flight Maine, was founded about 10 years ago to honor America’s veterans. The network brings veterans to the nation’s capital at no cost so they can visit and reflect at their war memorials, with top priority given to World War II survivors and veterans who are terminally ill. The Maine branch was founded last year, and so far has brought more than 100 veterans from Maine to Washington, D.C. — with the largest possible amount of pomp, circumstance and appreciation, according to board member Joy Asuncion of Belfast.

“For me, it’s an incredible honor being involved in it,” she said.

Last October, she went on a flight as one of the “guardians” or helpers assigned to each veteran.

“When we flew out of Bangor, the National Guard was there, thanking the veterans. When we got to Portland, we were greeted by 100 firefighters and police officers. There was a band,” she said. “When we got to Baltimore, oh my goodness, there must have been thousands of people there. What an incredible experience.”

On that same flight was Lawrence Rossignol, 89, of Bangor, who served 21 years in the U.S. Army, a veteran of both World War II and the Korean War. He was struck by the numbers of people who came out on the journey to and from the capital to cheer on the veterans.

“It’s hard to explain, really, the thrill it was,” he said.

Rossignol enjoyed getting to tour the war memorials, especially the World War II monument, which “meant quite a bit to me,” and the Korean War memorial, too. One thing that especially moved him, though, was the fact that the veterans actually had a mail call on the flight back home to Maine.

“In the service, mail call was one of the most important things,” he said. “I had a brown manila envelope with eight or 10 letters from my friends. It was unreal. It was quite emotional, too.”

Back in Belfast, Dyer — who wore a Seabees ballcap with the slogan “Can Do” emblazoned on it, got into the plane, flown by a volunteer pilot from Penobscot Island Air in Rockland. His daughter, Catie Tyer, was among the crowd waiting for the plane to taxi and then lift off.

“I think it’s wonderful,” she said of Honor Flight Maine. “I can’t believe they honor all the vets in this way.”

Tyer said that she is thrilled for her father, who built Quonset huts and runways — and chased girls, he joked — during the war.

“We all love him,” she said. “I just want him to have a good time. He deserves to see all the memorials.”

The veterans returned to the Portland Jetport on Sunday, reported Portland television station WGME, CBS 13.

To help support Honor Flight Maine, visit the website, call 370-7210 or write to 1001 Westbrook St., Portland, ME 04102.