WASHINGTON (KELO) – Midwest Honor Flight’s trip to the Washington, D.C. area on May 31 honored 83 area veterans, and a common theme when conversing with them was who was on their minds. Army veteran Dale Schroeder of Marshall, Minnesota was thinking about people who weren’t there alongside him.
“Lot of my buddies overseas, yeah,” Schroeder said. “I don’t know if they’re alive or not anymore.”
It’s a similar story with Army veteran Mary Ellen Jepsen of Mitchell, South Dakota. Her thoughts were with her brother.
“A Vietnam veteran, and he passed away this past December and never got here,” Jepsen said. “So yes, I’m thinking of him tonight, and he was in Vietnam.”
Army veteran Larry Sattler of Sioux Falls had several people on his mind.
“Friends from the military,” Sattler said. “My own father, a Navy man, so. Uncles.”
“I had a brother in the Army, another brother in the Navy and another one in the Air Force, and the one in the Air Force was killed in a flight accident,” Army veteran John Ellefson of Pierre, South Dakota said.
Ellefson was thinking of his family, too.
“Every memorial,” Ellefson said.
The wall at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial features more than 58,000 names of people who either lost their lives in combat or are designated as missing in action. The wall has a prominent place on the National Mall, and some of the names immortalized there are familiar to Army veteran Lyle Bowes of Brookings, South Dakota.
“I know a number of those people on that wall,” Bowes said.
If you walk straight south from the wall, between the Lincoln Memorial and its reflecting pool that stretches out to the World War II Memorial, you’ll come across the Korean War Veterans Memorial. Here, Navy veteran John Lauer of Mitchell, South Dakota said he felt fortunate to be on the trip. He’s thinking about his Darlene.
“I didn’t want to come,” Lauer said. “But I lost my wife, and she encouraged me to go. And so I did, in her honor. But I’m glad I did.”
Darlene passed away in February at the age of 88. They were married for 67 years.
“My children encouraged me to take the trip,” Lauer said. “I’m happy for that, and I think they are, too.”