“I want to say from the bottom of my heart, on behalf of every American I’d want to be associated with, thank you."

DESTIN — Mike Huckabee, former Arkansas governor and current South Walton resident, was on hand Thursday morning to meet with the local veterans group Crispy Warriors and to film for his TV show, “Huckabee.”

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The Crispy Warriors, a group comprised of retired Air Force, Army, Marine, Navy and Coast Guard members (who like their bacon “crispy”), gathered at Another Broken Egg Café in Destin — as they do every Thursday — and were joined by the former politician-turned-TV star as he presented awards to four World War II veterans.

In a speech to the room filled with about 75 vets, Huckabee touted the nation’s values and the importance of standing for the American flag, as well as the importance of honoring those who served.

“I want to say from the bottom of my heart, on behalf of every American I’d want to be associated with, thank you,” he told the crowd of vets. “And if there are those who do not appreciate the freedom they have — who either take it for granted, or even despise it for reasons that make no sense to me — then I only wish that they would one day have enough class and grace to be able to shine the shoes of those of you who gave us our freedom.”

Huckabee presented awards to Charlie Geiger, John Beard, Sam Lombardo and Bill McCowen, honoring them for their service to the country during WWII. He gave special recognition to McCowen, who holds the U.S. military record for the most combat missions ever served (697).

Lombardo, who turned 98 in July, said he was honored to have Huckabee join the Crispy Warriors for their weekly breakfast.

“I’m humbled," he said. “We know what we did during the war, and I thank God for being as healthy as I am ... I’m honored but saddened to think of all the men who we’ve lost. That’s the thing about getting old, you lose your friends.”

Huckabee filmed the breakfast as part of his TV show, which airs at 7 p.m. Saturdays on Trinity Broadcast Network. The episode he filmed Thursday morning will air Nov. 11 on Veterans Day.

Huckabee had to jet off to Nashville for more filming after breakfast, but took time to meet with each of the vets and the staff members of Another Broken Egg before leaving.

“Crispy Warriors are phenomenal people who served this country in ways that most Americans can’t even understand or appreciate,” he said. “These awards this morning were just a token of appreciation to the WWII vets who are here, all of whom have remarkable records of sacrificial service and we never, ever say enough to thank them, to recognize what they did for our freedom.”