WASHINGTON (AP) — Army veteran Klaas Van Beek of northwest Iowa was one of 83 veterans honored on Midwest Honor Flight’s trip Wednesday.
“I got drafted during Vietnam, and they sent me to Germany,” he said.
Midwest Honor Flight brings area veterans to the Washington, D.C. area to see and experience the memorials that share and honor the country’s history which they experienced. His granddaughter Elsie Van Beek’s fundraising, to the tune of $85,000, entirely funded the veterans’ travel to Washington.
“Lots of cupcakes, I’ll just tell you that,” she said.
Thousands of cupcakes. She sold wreaths for Wreaths Across America, too, but most of the money came from selling cupcakes. The baking, she says, was a group effort.
“With my mom, and sometimes my siblings would join in,” Elsie said. “It’s a whole family thing.”
Speaking of family, her brother Aaron Van Beek is Midwest Honor Flight’s CEO.
“As a joke I said raise $50,000, and you can get on a flight,” Aaron said.
She breezed past that figure, and Midwest Honor Flight’s Mission 15 bears her name: Elsie Honors.
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“So proud,” Aaron said. “I didn’t think she would get this far. Honestly, I thought it would be $5,000, and it would be great.”
Asked about her contribution, Elsie again seeks to share the credit.
“All the reactions of the veterans and like, being so thankful and appreciative it just, yeah it touched my heart a lot, and I was just like, wow, I, we did this, you know?” Elsie said. “And it wasn’t just me, it was community, family, friends and the veterans, of course.”
“15-year-old raising that kind of money to send these veterans, I know that they were tickled pink to go on this flight with her,” Aaron said.
A veteran honored on a Midwest Honor Flight mission might describe their experience as extraordinary. But for Elsie, the gestures of the day are a minimum effort.
“This is the least that we could do for them, so might as well give them the respect, closure and honor that they deserve,” Elsie said.
“I never had any doubt that she would reach her goal,” Klaas said. “She’s not one to give up.”