82 veterans from our part of country are still soaking up this week’s once-in-a-lifetime experience of Mission 4 of the Midwest Honor Flight. The group spent Tuesday in the Washington D.C. area touring different memorials.
The day began at Sioux Falls Regional Airport, with the plane flying directly to Reagan National Airport. It was a milestone trip in and of itself: the 700th Honor Flight on American Airlines into Reagan National Airport. There are Honor Flight chapters all over the country that do what Midwest Honor Flight does.
The veterans deplaned at Reagan National Airport just across the river from Washington D.C.
“Brought me out first, because I’m a little bit of age … I thought that was a fantastic reception,” veteran Marvin Andersen said.
Later in the day at the United States Navy Memorial in downtown Washington, the Army veteran and two-time Purple Heart recipient who served in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War explained just how “of age” he is.
“98 and tomorrow, one half,” Andersen said.
The first stop after the reception at Reagan National Airport was Arlington National Cemetery and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
“My heart is pumping … it brings a feeling that I don’t think you could get anywhere else,” veteran Bob Born said. “As you can see, I’m quivering. What an honor.”
“It’s hard to believe ’til you see it,” veteran Lyle Aaberg said.
Next came the Air Force Memorial. 89-year-old Air Force veteran Herman Lier had never been to the memorial built in his honor.
“It’ll probably be the last time I get to do something like this, but I’m real grateful,” Lier said.
The rest of the day brought stops at the World War Il Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial and U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial. If there was one word to describe the day, it might be “gratitude”: from, for, and to the veterans.
“I’m real grateful for this trip,” Andersen said.
“It makes me pretty proud, how could you be anything but proud about it? And proud to meet all these guys, I’ve talked to a lot of them,” Lier said.
“It’s great, probably one of the greatest things I ever did,” veteran Rich Ping said.
“I’m so excited, I have a chill, and it’s hot, I can’t believe it,” Born said. “It’s awesome.”
Coming next Friday, KELOLAND News will bring you veterans’ reflections from the World War II and Korean War eras. Then in Eye on KELOLAND at 10 next Friday, we’ll profile four brothers who went on this trip together.