Mission 4 of the Midwest Honor Flight took 82 veterans to the Washington, D.C. area to see memorials built in their honor. On that flight were four brothers from South Dakota soaking up the once-in-a-lifetime experience together.
87-year-old Dean, 85-year-old Delvin, 72-year-old Jerry, and 66-year-old Kenny Steever grew up in Bryant, South Dakota. After Dean and Delvin, their parents George and Elsie had five daughters and Jerry. Kenny didn’t arrive until Dean was serving in Korea.
“Well I got a letter from mom from home that I had a baby brother, and I didn’t even know mom was expecting, so it was a surprise,” Dean Steever said.
All four of the Steever brothers are veterans- Jerry and Dean served with the Army, Kenny with the Air Force, and Delvin with the Navy.
“I’m very proud of their serving the service, and just good people,” Jerry Steever said.
On this trip, Kenny served as Delvin’s guardian, and Jerry served as Dean’s guardian.
“I’m getting a kick out of their facial expressions when they do see the memorials, and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and that and seeing the Capitol,” Jerry Steever said.
“It is just absolutely fabulous,” Kenny Steever said. “I would do it over and over and over again.”
Midwest Honor Flight takes veterans from South Dakota, northwest Iowa, southwest Minnesota and Nebraska to the nation’s capital to see these memorials in person.
“I tell you what, it’s tremendous, it’s been an awful good day,” Dean Steever said. “Seeing a lot of things that, this is the first time I ever been in Washington, D.C., yeah so we, everything is new to me, and it’s been great.”
The word “tremendous” comes up more than once.
“Oh it’s tremendous. Wonderful,” Delvin Steever said. “I’d do it again in a heartbeat.”
But this experience is all the more incredible to do it with your brothers.
“Oh they’re pretty good boys, I tell you what,” Delvin said.
“It’s just wonderful, just absolutely wonderful,” Kenny Steever said. “And when we first talked about trying to do it, none of us hesitated. We were ready to go.”
The emotions sometimes can’t be put into words.
“With these guys it’s, I can’t describe it,” Jerry Steever said.
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“So many things that I can’t even begin to explain them,” Dean Steever said. “We’ve been to all these memorials and different things, and it’s just been awful good, and I just appreciate all the people that put this on.”
“I’ve had multiple today alone tell me, ‘I would have never gotten out here had it not been for a group like this,’ and a lot of it goes to the 100 percent volunteer organization that we have and the corporate sponsorships that we get, all the different groups that will do fundraisers,” Midwest Honor Flight President and Director Aaron Van Beek said. “All of this stuff has to take place in order for these guys to actually get out to D.C.”
And many others are still hoping to make this once-in-a-lifetime trip.
“We’ve got 600 on a waiting list to date, which means that as we sit right now, with no other applications coming in, we’ll still accept applications until whenever, but with the 600 now, that would take 8 flights and $1.2 million to just honor the ones that have already applied,” Van Beek said.
Asked what he’s feeling here in this moment at the Korean War Veterans Memorial, Jerry brings up his experience playing Santa Claus for kids.
“One of the most gratifying things and this is equal to that,” Jerry Steever said.
After returning from Washington to the Sioux Falls Regional Airport, the Steever brothers were warmly greeted. And, fittingly, the Steever brothers experienced it together. But not every veteran has received this reception. Many never came home.
Those who have come and gone before are immortalized in the memorials that welcome these veterans on this Midwest Honor Flight. Someday when these veterans pass away, they too will be immortalized at these same memorials.
For now, they’re still with us. But no matter how much time passes, their spirit and service will never be gone.