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Honor Flight Holds Final Salute

September 12, 2011, 10:32 PM by Kelly Bartnick

SIOUX FALLS, SD - Hundreds of World War II veterans gathered for another honor, but didn't have to leave the state. 

Nearly 1,400 World War II veterans went on 12 trips over two years with the South Dakota Honor Flight organization. 

Before the final salute, they rarely talked about it. Now they can't stop. 

"No, of course, each time it got easier," said Herman Jansen who was part of the Aberdeen flight group. 

On a warm, September night, hundreds were gathered in Sioux Falls. So many showed up the crowd had to be diverted into an overflow space for the final salute.

"I got acquainted with so many I wanted to come and see them," said Scotland veteran Delmar Strunk. 

Strunk wasn't even going to go on the Honor Flight. He finally decided to take the final flight this spring. And the surprises have kept coming. The latest came on a postcard today.

"It's from China, and it's thanking me. It says, 'I appreciate your support in CBI during World War II in 1944,'" Strunk said. 

"It was wonderful going and I'd go again if they had it," said Tyndall veteran Al Novotny. 

"It would have to be everything in your head. Nothing was written down," said Harriet Randall, who's job was so top-secret that she doesn't talk about it to this day. "[They said] take it to your grave, and that's what I've done," she said.

But like nearly every other veteran here, she's now talking about the experience. And she isn't alone. That's why they're all here a brotherhood with one more tour under their belts. The first mission: to serve their country with honor; the final: for their country to honor them.

South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard was instrumental in helping the organization get off the ground - though then as Lieutenant Governor. He declared Monday Honor Flight day across the state to celebrate the effort and our KELO-TV special coverage.

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