World War II veterans are, sadly, getting harder and harder to find. According to the National World War II Museum, 362 vets die each day. Right now, there are 558,000 still alive across the country and seven from KELOLAND made the trip to Washington, D.C., with Midwest Honor Flight.
Honoring the 16 million men and women who served in the armed forces in World War II, this memorial, opened in 2004, is breathtaking.
Matt Holsen: What do you think about your memorial?
Arnie Streff: Oh wonderful. Wonderful.
“Most impressive of what we’ve seen so far,” Glenn Gregg said.
Arnie Streff from Alton and Glenn Gregg from Hawarden are World War II veterans getting a chance to take it in thanks to Midwest Honor Flight. Streff, a pilot who conducted observation for artillery, is at an impressive age of 97.
“Well it’s a once in a lifetime thing for me now,” Streff said.
More than 21,000 World War II vets are still alive in Iowa, Minnesota and South Dakota. Many are just now getting the chance to travel to the nation’s capital for a hero’s welcome. It’s enough emotion to make Gregg, a former soldier in the infantry, cry.
“Once during combat I did and that was very emotional and the next best emotion came this morning,” Gregg said.
Gregg was shot in the leg one mile inside Germany. Back then, he was stuck in Europe following the war and missed out on the excitement in America. The Purple Heart and Bronze Star honoree was accompanied to the memorial by his grandson and Iowa Lieutenant Governor Adam Gregg.
“So he wasn’t here in America for the celebrations on VE Day or VJ Day, so to have an opportunity like that to be greeted with cheers and claps that meant a lot to him and that’s something I won’t soon forget,” Adam Gregg said.
Standing and holding hands in front of the freedom wall, you can only hope their spirit of sacrifice and commitment to America during World War II trickles down to future generations.
“And I’m proud to be part of it, I really am,” Glenn Gregg said.
Our Midwest Honor Flight coverage wraps up Friday night with a special look at the trip from beginning to end in EYE on KELOLAND at 10.