JEFFERSON, S.D. (KELO) — 125 Honor Flight hubs across the country are grounded this year because of COVID-19. The pandemic isn’t stopping the local Midwest Honor Flight from showing gratitude to Veterans here in KELOLAND. This weekend, volunteers and the community took the time to say thank you to a Vietnam Vet with serious health issues. Craig Kelly served in the Air Force and because of his health, his family wasn’t sure if he could make a flight next year.
On Sunday afternoon, Midwest Honor Flight volunteers picked up Vietnam Veteran Craig Kelly in Jefferson, South Dakota. From a police escort to a ceremony in South Sioux City, the 69-year-old with serious health issues was in for his own final tour with honor.
“It was just so special to have so many people to come out and respect him for what he did and the service that he provided. It was just really cool,” Koster said.
Kelly’s Daughter Heather Koster says the entire family joined in the celebration of his service at the half-scale, replica Vietnam Veterans Memorial. It meant a lot.
“Getting there and seeing everyone there and all the different units that participated. It was pretty amazing,” Koster said.
Kelly was supposed to be on a flight this year but because of the pandemic, all trips have been postponed. Still, Midwest Honor Flight is doing its best to serve Veterans.
Holsen: This is a lot of effort that went into something like this. Why do you do this?
Van Beek: Our mission is to honor Veterans and typically we do that by sending them out to Washington, D.C., free of charge. However, we don’t think that that’s the only way that we should honor them. Especially those that aren’t able to make that flight, we want to still make sure that they know that their service and sacrifice is appreciated by not only our organization but also the American people.
Koster says her father was excited to go to Washington, D.C.
“He really thought that would be a cool thing to do. He was really looking forward to it,” Koster said.
She’s grateful he got this opportunity thanks to a crowd of supporters.
“I think he was pretty emotional. He was pretty touched,” Koster said.
“It really makes it all worth it for all those who are involved. Our focus is to honor them and seeing that healing and closure begin, that’s a big part. It’s worth all the hours that got put into this,” Van Beek said.
Midwest Honor Flight hopes to resume trips to Washington, D.C., next spring. That will all depend on the status of the pandemic.