SIOUX CITY, IOWA (KELO) – Sunday friends and family of Eugene Altena gathered in South Sioux City to help Midwest Honor Flight give special recognition to him and his time in the service.
Eugene Altena, or “Oots” as his family and friends call him, served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam Era between 1963 and 1965.
During his time in the service he worked in the battalion as a squad leader training soldiers to go to Vietnam. He stayed stateside as part of a permanent party for the rest of his time in the service.
“I lost a lot of good friends in Vietnam. Through the service and a couple of them back from in Sioux Center,” Veteran Eugene “Oots” Altena said.
Altena’s most recent battles have been with four different types of cancer.
He was planning on being on the upoming Midwest Honor Flight in September. Unfortunately, his illness has become terminal.
“We talked about it and the family actually requested if we could do something. If we could come to his room and do something special for him. We decided to take it a little step further. Afterall, our Vietnam veterans, we owe them so much for our freedoms that we have today,” Chris Van Beek said.
Midwest Honor Flight gave Altena a trip from Sioux Center to Sioux City so he could see the half-scale Vietnam War Memorial Wall. He said it was the proudest moment of his life.
“I’ve had a lot of good moments, God’s been good to me. And my family, I have a great family support. That’s what’s carried me through so far. I’m not afraid to die,” Altena said. “But that’s next.”
And he had his family right by his side as he was honored for his service Sunday.
“My son, he came all the way from Columbia, Missouri to be here today. I just thank him for who he is. I’m proud to be his father,” Altena said.
Altena said being at the Memorial Wall Sunday allowed him to pay his respect to all those who lost their lives in the war.
“It was an awesome experience to be an Army vet,” Altena said.
Find out more about the Midwest Honor Flight, including how you can help the organization and their upcoming flights, on their website.