Honor Flight to carry 11 local vets to D.C.
A mix of veterans who served during World War II, Korea and Vietnam will be next in a long line of patriots to take part in a Brushy Creek Honor Flight.
Of the 150 veterans, 11 call Dickinson County home.
The flight is scheduled to take off May 6. The veterans will go to Washington D.C., to visit various memorials and sites in the nation’s capitol.
The Honor Flight will leave from the Fort Dodge Regional Airport at 5:30 a.m. that morning. Volunteers from the Fort Dodge Fire Department will be on hand to assist any veteran in need of help boarding the plane. The passenger cabin will be filled exclusively by veterans, Honor Flight representatives and medical staff.
Honor Flight Board Member and Vietnam veteran Charlie Walker said the medical staff often pays for their own flight, which can cost several hundred dollars.
“They’re paying to work,” Walker said, noting their personal commitment.
After arriving, the group will be welcomed at the Washington D.C. terminal and board buses bound for the memorial sites.
“A lot of times, Legion Riders will provide an escort for us,” Walker said.
Groups will begin their tour near the Lincoln Memorial, the Korean War Memorial and the Vietnam War Memorial, before the buses tour the city over lunch and bring the veterans to the World War II Memorial near the Washington Monument.
Walker said older veterans are often paired with younger ones for mobility purposes.
“Sometimes, these guys become pretty good buddies after the day,” Walker said.
The tour concludes with stops at Arlington National Cemetery, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the Marine Corp Memorial — often called the Iwo Jima Memorial — before returning to Fort Dodge at approximately 10:30 p.m.
Ann Miller, Director of Dickinson County Veteran’s Affairs, said the flight is provided at no cost to the veterans, even if they would want to pay.
“These veterans cannot pay their way,” Miller said. “The money has to be raised by the county they’re from.”
She said funds for the flight are donated by local entities, such as VFWs and auxiliary VFWs, various American Legions, Knights of Columbus and the general public. Miller said the funds support two flights each year, one in May and one in September.
Walker estimated each flight costs $100,000. He quickly did the math and, with the May 6 flight being Bushy Creek’s 14th, he noted the public has provided nearly $1.5 million dollars. Corporate donations to the Honor Flights are rare.
“That’s all come from donations from people in north and central Iowa,” Walker said, moved by the very thought. “Our board has not had to work hard to get those donations.”
The level of community support has not gone unnoticed by the veterans.
“They’re basically saying, ‘Thanks for serving,’” Mike Hawn, a Vietnam Veteran from Spirit Lake, said. “I do want to say thank you to the community for supporting it … I think it’s wonderful that all these places, like the VFW, and the other places (have) fundraisers for the honor flight.”
Darial Determan, a World War II veteran from Milford, was also thankful for the community’s support.
“It’s great,” Determan said. “We’re glad to have the community. I think it’s a very good opportunity and I think it’s wonderful.”
Determan too served in the Navy from April of 1945 to July of 1946 as a Seaman First Class. Hawn served as a Navy Medic from September of 1961 until January of 1966. He was attached to the Marine Corp during his service years.
“I never had to go to Vietnam, but I was close,” Hawn said. “I was in Okinawa for a year and a half. The closest I came to any combat was in the blockade around Cuba in 1962, when Kennedy sent all of us down there. It was a scary time. Not for us. The people back home were scared but hey, you gotta think, when you’re 18 or 19 years old, we aren’t scared. We’re indestructible. We don’t think anything’s going to happen to us.”
Today, Hawn takes part in the fundraising efforts himself, as a member of the Knights of Columbus.
Hawn said he is particularly looking forward to visiting Arlington National Cemetery and the memorials for World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam War. He indicated he feels a personal connection to these memorials, since several members of his family served in each war.
“I’m sorry they didn’t have this honor flight years ago because my grandpa served years ago in World War I, my dad was in World War II, my uncle was in World War II, I had two uncles in Korea and now me and my brother served during the Vietnam War.” Hawn said. “I think they would have probably went on the flight. They’d have been happy to do that, I believe.”
Determan said, while he is looking forward to the trip, no particular site stands out to him yet. However, he said he likely will have several experiences that stand out to him after the trip is over.
Hawn indicated the memorials provide recognition for veterans who did not necessarily receive a warm welcome at home.
“World War II, there was good recognition but Vietnam, there was not,” Hawn said. “You can imagine what some of the guys felt like when they were spit on and they were yelling things back in Vietnam.”
Walker said the trips remedy that situation in a way.
“A lot of the Vietnam vets were not treated well when they came home and they’re getting their welcome through this,” he said.
Miller said many of the veterans on the Honor Flights receive impromptu recognition while visiting the sites.
“It’s really touched me when these men and women come back with tears in their eyes and pride,” Miller said. “They get the hero’s welcome from the pilot of the plane and people on the plane. At the various memorials people come up to shake their hand. For the Vietnam vets, that’s practically unheard of.”
The Brushy Creek Honor Flights began when Ron Newsum of Fort Dodge began exploring an Honor Flight for his father. Having contacted offices elsewhere in Iowa, it was suggested to him that an Honor Flight chapter be established in his region of the state. Walker recalled Newsum seeking out local Veteran’s Affairs Officers, Legion Commanders and similar community members to serve on the initial board of directors.
“None of them hesitated,” Walker said.
The funds for the first flight were raised relatively quickly and the board began to consider a second flight.
“The original goal was that all the World War II vets, who wanted to, should be able to see their memorial,” Walker said.
Walker said the group decided to include Korean and Vietnam veterans after visiting their respective memorials.
“Any veteran from those wars and conflicts should be able to go out there, see them and be honored,” Walker said.
Walker said he is continually excited to accompany his fellow veterans on the unique experience each year. He said he sometimes receives written comments saying how much the trips have meant to the veterans.
“One of the comments I often read is, ‘Dad won’t stop talking about that trip,’” Walker said.