WASHINGTON (KELO) — 95-year-old Army veteran Gerry Lange of the Madison, South Dakota area has a Ph.D. from the Universidad de Navarra in Spain, but he doesn’t quite have the words to describe last Wednesday’s Midwest Honor Flight experience in the Washington, D.C. area. He was one of 83 veterans honored on the trip.
“It was unbelievable,” he said. “There aren’t words enough to describe it.”
Lange entered the Army in August 1946.
“We were rushed over to Japan to relieve the combat troops … the thinking there was that you don’t want combat troops occupying Japan, so a bunch of us teenagers were given the GI Bill if we would go over there for a year,” Lange said.
The World War II era was colliding with the new reality of a chillier Cold War.
“We worked ’round the clock spying on the Russians,” Lange said. “Morse code.”
Decades later, the father of four and grandfather of 13 was on the trip to D.C. with his son Bob as his guardian.
“He has a very curious mind and is a lifelong learner, which I’ve tried to be, and he has a heart of gold, which I likewise try to have to the extent possible,” Bob Lange said.
The day had Gerry thinking about the nation as a whole.
“We have so many beautiful people in this country, and we should try to get along a little better,” he said.
As the day’s journey was about to enter its final chapters at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, the elder Lange was both lighthearted and reflective.
Dan Santella: The trip is almost over; we’re about to fly home. What are you thinking about right now, Gerry?
“Well, a nap on the plane,” he said. “Oh, I guess I’m so grateful that my health has held up even though I’ve had cancer twice.”
He might have been born before Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected president, but Jerry Lange is thriving in 2023.
“I guess I have a really good guardian angel, is all I can figure,” he said.