Cerro Gordo County Iowa
Part of the IAGenWeb Project
Clear Lake Mirror Reporter
Elder veteran offers insight into meaning of trip
Saturday morning, April 18, 2009, 107 aged North Iowa World War II veterans, accompanied by a bevy of doctors, nurses, and caregivers, will take off into the wild blue yonder from the Mason City, Iowa airport on a very special trip. We will be off to Washington, D.C. to visit our very own Memorial, which was dedicated May 29, 2004.
Why do we go? Some go in honor of their buddies who did not come home.
Some, because most of us have never had the opportunity to visit the hallowed site. Statistics show that 1,200 of what Tom BROKAW called, in his dedication speech, "The Greatest Generation," are dying each day and we know not when it will be our turn.
Because we remember when patriotism in our homeland was at an all time high, and the cry of the citizenry was: "REMEMBER PEARL HARBOR."
Because we remember when gasoline and trucks were rationed. And my wife, Marlus, who managed our dairy while I was away for two years, had to appear before the ration board if the need was only for a truck tire.
Because we remember when sugar, coffee, cheese, meat and shoes, were rationed.
Because we remember when oleo-margarine replaced butter on the dining room table.
Because President ROOSEVELT had declared Pearl Harbor Day "A DAY THAT WILL LIVE IN INFAMY."
Because we had learned some new phrases, "Concentration Camp," "Battle of the Bulge," "Normandy Beach," and "Enola Gay."
Because when our wives and sisters went to work in the shipyards and airplane factories they were called "Rosie the Riveter."
Because we remember "Omaha Beach."
Because a Victory Garden was needed to feed most families.
And because we wanted to see the special monument that a grateful country had built in our honor at a cost of $182 million dollars.
However, many of the veterans this memorial honors could not afford such a trip, while many physically were not able to travel alone.
That is when Earl MORSE, a physician assistant in Springfield, Ohio, also a private pilot, recruited several other private pilots to join with him to fly a few veterans in private planes, free of charge, to D.C. and escort them for the day to see their Memorial.
In May of 2005, 12 happy veterans in six small airplanes made the trip, free of charge. Honor Flight was born. In that first year, 2005, 137 WWII veterans made the trip at no cost to the veteran.
In 2006, 891 WWII veterans made the trip at no cost to the veteran. In 2007, over 5,000 veterans made the trip at no cost to the veteran. In the fourth year, 2008, 11,137 veterans made the trip at no cost to the veteran. In 2009 the goal is for 25,000 veterans to make the trip at no cost to the veteran.
And we go because we wanted to know if we could still hear-- echoing from the marble statues and stone pillars-- BROKAW'S "The Greatest Generation."
NOTE" Clear Lake historian John PERKINS passed away Sunday, April 24, 2011, at the age of 99 years.
Clear Lake Mirror Reporter
Clear Lake Mirror Reporter
It's hard to tell who's more excited -- the 16 local veterans who will participate in an Honor Flight to Washington D.C. next month, or the organizers and sponsors who are helping to make the trip a reality.
Dave THEISS is heading up local efforts to include Clear Lake area veterans on the April 18 Honor Flight trip spearheaded by the Winnebago County Veterans Affairs. Honor Flight is a national program that seeks to bring as many World War II veterans to the new World War II Monument as it possibly can.
"We are losing our veterans at a rate of 1,200 per day," said THEISS, citing national statistics supplied by the Veteran's Administration. "Last calendar year we lost seven World War II veterans from here in Clear Lake. That makes this an important, imminent project."
Veterans from at least eight North Iowa counties will take part in the April Honor Flight, including John PERKINS, who at age 97 says he is excited to be able to make the trip; the assistance guardian support personnel will provide is also welcomed.
"I went to D.C. a long time ago, but I have never seen the World War II Monument. I am excited to be going," said PERKINS, whose military service began as a pilot, then transitioned to airplane mechanic for the War Training Service.
Jack KENNEDY, who served in the Army in the European Theater, is another who has been to the nation's capitol a number of times, but has never seen the World War II Memorial, which opened to the public in 2004.
"I had heard of Honor Flights and I consider it a real privilege to go," said KENNEDY.
THEISS notes that it is not just being able to visit the monuments, but doing it with other veterans, which makes the Honor Flights so special.
At least one local veteran suggested another should take his spot, because he could see the memorial with family another time, said THEISS. "I told him that experiencing the trip with his World War II buddies is what this was all about and I'm leaving his name on the list."
Jim MERWIN, 85, said he has visited D.C. several times in the past when family members lived in the area. Yet, the Army chemical warfare specialist says he expects this trip to be something special.
"Everyone's been talking about it quite a bit at the V.F.W. and I think it will be something we'll all hold onto for the rest of our lives."
The Honor Flight-Winnebago group will depart the Mason City Municipal Airport at 7 a.m. Saturday, April 18. The plane will arrive in Washington, D.C. at 10:30 a.m. and the group will board buses to travel to the World War II Memorial. Following lunch at the memorial and a group picture at the Iowa Memorial, they will be back on the buses and on their way to the Lincoln Monument, Korean and Vietnam Memorials. A city tour will also include drive-bys of the Washington and Jefferson Monuments, the Capitol Building and White House. The group will then proceed to Arlington National Cemetery, where they will be taken to the tomb of the Unknown Soldier, lay a wreath, and observe a Changing of the Guard. After a stop at the Iwo Jima Memorial and a group picture they will return to Dulles Airport for a flight back to Mason City. They are expected to arrive back in North Iowa at 10:30 p.m. that night.
THEISS said planning is already underway to organize another Honor Flight this fall. Donations are being accepted to provide as many veterans as possible with a free trip to their memorial. Donations may be directed to: Honor Flight-Winnebago, P.O. Box 191, Clear Lake, Iowa 50428. The total cost of an Honor Flight trip is estimated at more than $90,000. Veterans make the trip for free, while guardians pay their own way.
Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier
MASON CITY -- Some tears were shed on Saturday morning as the Sun Country plane taxied down a runway at the Mason City Airport.
For many relatives and friends of North Iowa war veterans, the sight of the Honor Flight evoked intense feelings of pride. Both for their country and their beloved veteran on the plane. For the veterans on the flight, this day was a long one coming.
"They are all so excited that this flight is finally here," said Nancy Rockman of Mason City, the Honor Flight coordinator for the Mason City chapter. "Most of (the veterans) are from around the Mason City area."
A subsequent Honor Flight will depart on Oct. 17, which will take veterans primarily from Mason City and Clear Lake. The Honor Flight Network is a program that allows war veterans to fly to Washington, D.C. to spend time visiting the war memorials and monuments dedicated largely to the sacrifices they made for their country.
In 2005 the inaugural Honor Flight was made out of Ohio, which 12 World War II veterans were flown to the nation's capital. Today, the Honor Flight has expanded. Through local donations and national sponsors, the program is able to fly the veterans for free.
Each trip includes meals and an Honor Flight t-shirt and a hat.
"There will be a lot of smiles all day long," Rockman said.
Rockman got involved after hearing about Honor Flight on television.
"I was always interested," she said. She became involved in the North Iowa area after speaking to a couple of friends that put her through to the right people.
"It's been a real joy," she said.
Rockman also served as a guardian on Saturday's flight.
"All the veterans have guardians," Rockman said. "They're there to make sure all their needs are met once the plane gets to D.C."
According to www.honorflight.org, the goal for 2009 is to have transported 25,000 veterans to Washington D.C., and establish Honor Fligh hubs in each state. Currently Honor Flight has hubs in 30 states.
In D.C., Rockman said, strangers will occasionally approach veterans and shake their hand.
"A lot of them will call them a hero," Rockman said.
The Honor Flight will return to the Mason City Airport tonight at around 10 p.m., where the veterans will deboard and receive a 21-gun salute. Rockman said it's a moving event.
"There's lots of tears and smiles. It's just elation as they're coming down off the plane," Rockman said. "It's very animated."
MASON CITY, IA--A group of Mason City and Clear Lake area veterans is gearing up for their own Honor Flight. Nearly a hundred vets are preparing for take-off next Saturday.
They received special hats, t-shirts, books and other information about the trip Sunday in Mason City.
A flight coordinator said the event is a great opportunity to share stories.
"Many of the veterans have never ever once talked about their experiences during the war," said Nancy ROCKMAN, the Mason City coordinator for Honor Flight Winnebago. "This is a wonderful experience for them to share different stories with people that shared all of the same experiences."
Organizers of next weekend's journey are also making plans to put together another Honor Flight next spring.
Clear Lake Mirror Reporter
WASHINGTON, D.C. — More than 100 North Iowa area World War II veterans shucked the cold, wet elements of Mother Nature on Saturday in the nation's capital, taking part in the recent Honor Flight Winnebago trip.
Here are some stories collected from Saturday's event
MASON CITY — World War II veterans began showing up to the Mason City Airport long before sunrise on Saturday. For many, the Honor Flight day-trip to Washington, D.C. had consumed the last few weeks of their lives.
"This is a wonderful thing," said Francis HOLLAND of Mason City. HOLLAND was joined by about 100 fellow North Iowa area WWII veterans in a hangar, waiting to board the Sun Country Boeing 737.
"I really appreciate it," HOLLAND said, regarding the Honor Flight Winnebago organization.
HOLLAND served from 1943-1946 in the U.S. Army Air Corps with the Army Airways Communication System. He said he had always wanted to be a fighter pilot, but he was ineligible due to colorblindness. That didn't prevent him from his love of aviation. HOLLAND said he flew privately for 25 years after returning from the war.
Between comments, HOLLAND would pause to wave to a familiar face, or greet a friend.
On the plane, friendships were either being forged or being renewed.
'Where did you serve?' … 'What years were you over?' … 'What branch were you with?'
War stories were shared all day long.
"This is all about these veterans," said Steven HILL of North Mankato, Minn. HILL was a guardian to his father, Dick HILL, of Clear Lake.
"What a wonderful time. They get to talk to each other, and some of these guys have never talked about (their war experiences)," Steven HILL said.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — There's Army strong, and then there's Laverne WARNER strong.
WARNER, a World War II veteran from Mason City, served the U.S. Army in 1944-1946, as a rifleman in the Army Infantry 91st Division. While in Italy, he fell under sniper fire and was struck in the head.
The bullet entered his right cheek, just under his eye and exited out his left cheek.
"A sniper shot me, but I survived," Warner said, bearing the evidence of his assault in the form of a speech impediment.
His speech may be slowed, but his mind is very sharp. He recalls the very day the attack happened.
"It happened on October 1st, 65 years ago," he said.
Warner spent time in and out of four different hospitals and underwent surgical procedures. Despite his injury, WARNER said he went right back to work after his injury. His duties were limited to the kitchen, however.
WARNER was part of the Honor Flight Winnebago, which flew to Washington, D.C. on Saturday to spend the day touring the national war monuments.
"It's very good. Very good," WARNER said of the trip.
WARNER'S family was on hand to welcome their hero back to Mason City at the Mason City Airport Saturday night. He was received with hugs and praise.
"It's a nice homecoming than it was back then," he said.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Mud is nothing new to Mason City veteran Cletus SCHNEIDER, who traveled to D.C. with about 100 other area war veterans on Saturday as part of the Honor Flight. The soggy, mucky ground of Washington, D.C. on Saturday was nothing compared to the grounds of Germany in World War II, where he spent his service in the Army.
"It was mud all the way," SCHNEIDER said.
SCHNEIDER was on the front lines in a field artillery unit. His job was to count rations for the 300 or so prisoners his division collected.
"The prison camp was so full of mud," he said. "I went to count purchase one day, and I stood in the mud too long and when I started to count the rows I couldn't get my feet out of the mud and I fell in the mud."
SCHNEIDER recalled the cackle of the prisoners after his fall.
"The prisoners just laughed," he said, adding that about six or so broke rank to go assist him. "They pulled me out of the mud and scraped all that mud off me. They went back in line and didn't crack a smile," he said.
SCHNEIDER returned home and worked for the Mason City Globe Gazette, operating a typeset machine. The machine is now on display at the Kinney Pioneer Museum.
Despite the hell of war, SCHNEIDER recalled his military years as being some of the best in his life.
"I should have never come home," he said, laughing. "It was quite an experience."
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Prior to the landing of Saturday's Honor Flight, one organization committee member had some sage advice for North Iowa veterans.
Jack CAPUTO, an Honor Flight Winnebago committee member from Forest City, announced over the Sun Country plane's speaker system that each time a veteran dies, a library closes. He encouraged the some 100 North Iowa veterans who were part of Saturday's day-trip to Washington, D.C. to open up.
"Veterans, please talk to your families," CAPUTO said. "Yeah, it can hurt a little bit. It hurts when I tell some of my stuff from (Viet)nam."
CAPUTO stressed that veterans owe their families their stories.
"You owe it to your family because you're history," he said.
He said so much of the liberties experienced in the United States today are because of WWII veterans.
"We don't speak Japanese, we don't speak German, we speak English," Caputo said. "The teachers teach us how to read, but we read it in English because of you."
CAPUTO'S speech inspired an applause afterward, as the plane of 162 passengers made its way home to North Iowa.
"Tell your families what you did, so they can record the history if the Greatest Generation."
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Bob HUMPHREY of Clear Lake landed in Liverpool, England on is 21st birthday. HUMPHREY served the U.S. Army from 1943-45, with the medical battalion with an infantry division.
"Thirty days after D-Day we landed on Omaha Beach. I was in the war ever since, until the end," HUMPHREY said. Like many young men and women serving during the war, there were a lot of uncertain times.
"Sometimes you were scared to death," HUMPHREY said. "But I never got hurt so I came through ok. I was real lucky."
HUMPHREY was part of Saturday's Honor Flight Winnebago trip to Washington, D.C. Like many veterans, HUMPHREY said the World War II Memorial was his favorite.
"I never would have expected anything like this," he said.
Raised in Fertile, HUMPHREY moved to Clear Lake after the war and got married. He took a job painting houses and later attended Hamilton Business College in Mason City and then moved on to Caterpillar dealership in Mason City, where he worked for 27 years.
He said coming home from the war was no big thing.
"We just came home and went to work," he said. "That's all."
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The jets of the Sun Country Boeing 737 hummed lowly as North Iowa area war veterans began boarding at Dulles Airport in Washington, D.C. on Saturday.
The sound was a familiar one for William RICH of Clear Lake, one of more than 100 participants of the Honor Flight. RICH spent much of his life in and around airplanes, which began by passing an entrance exam to the U.S. Army Air Corps in the early 1940s. After training at bases in Wisconsin and southern California, RICH was shipped to England with his crew.
His mission was short-lived, however.
"We were there at the end of the war, but we did get in 15 missions before D-Day was declared," RICH said.
RICH continued to fly after the war, and said Saturday's trip was a "great flight."
"Too bad the weather didn't cooperate, but other than that it's been great," he said.
RICH had been to D.C. before, but hadn't seen the World War II Memorial.
"And I was particularly interested in the Iwo Jima Memorial because my brother was a Marine in Iwo Jima," he said. "He had quite an experience," he said of his brother, Lewis, who lives in Glidden.
"He was wounded, so I was kind of interested in the Iwo Jima Memorial."
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Without donations and the financial support of each community, the Honor Flight would not be an option.
Each flight costs roughly $90,000, according to Honor Flight Winnebago president Dave THEISS of Clear Lake. The only way that kind of money is available is through private funds, nothing more. All the money that goes into the Honor Flight comes from community donations, fundraisers and other private gifts.
"No tax money is used at all," THEISS said. "This is privately funded."
As far as fundraising goes, THEISS said the local VFW offices are doing some pretty heavy collecting.
"In Forest City they did several different pancake breakfasts. Everybody kind of does their own thing," THEISS said.
Many places of business will have collection jars to help raise money. The money all goes to the same place, THEISS said, so it doesn't matter if you donate in one community or another.
The money collected is used to see that all World War II veterans are flown to Washington, D.C. for free. The veterans are the only participants the funds are used for. Guardians who take the trip are responsible for financing their trip. Individually, it costs roughly $600 per person for the trip.
The communities in North Iowa have been very supportive of their veterans, THEISS said.
Next April, Honor Flight Winnebago will begin sending veterans to Washington, D.C. again thanks "to the benevolence of our communities," THEISS said.
The Globe Gazette
CEDAR FALLS --- Phil THOMAS remembers his Honor Flight well.
He and his daughter has been searching out how to get on a list to take one of the flights to Washington, D.C., to tour war memorials. He eventually got on a list for the Quad Cities chapter of the Honor Flight organization. Three weeks prior to a September flight, he got the call that one veteran had gotten sick and THOMAS could take his place.
Since a more local chapter of the Honor Flight organization formed, THOMAS has been helping sponsor Hy-Vee and the new chapter promote the event. The North Central Iowa Honor Flight will have two such events this summer, flying World War II veterans east on June 22 and Sept. 14. The chapter serves an area from south of Cedar Rapids to Bremer County.
The night before THOMAS' flight, he drove down to the Quad Cities to stay with a friend. Then he rose at 4 a.m. to start a whirlwind day.
In the nation's capital, THOMAS got to see the National World War II Memorial, the Vietnam memorial and the changing of the guard at Arlington National Cemetery.
Perhaps what stands out most in his memory is the way they were treated upon sendoff from Moline, Ill., arrival in Washington and when they returned to the Quad Cities.
"Sen. Chuck GRASSLEY came out to see us in Washington," he said. "And USO ladies danced for us when we got back." Crowds of at least 100 attended the comings and goings of the crew of veterans on the Honor Flight.
THOMAS served in the U.S. Navy during World War II. The war itself snuck up on him. He had worked late the night of Dec. 6, 1941. He slept in the next day and later had a date, whom he took to the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake. He started hearing people talk about Pearl Harbor and thought, "What the heck is Pearl Harbor?"
He would learn soon enough, as he would join the Navy, serving from 1943 into 1946.
THOMAS encourages other World War II veterans to apply for the Honor Flight.
"I'm sure anyone would love to see the monuments," THOMAS said. "They treat you really well."
The Globe Gazette
MASON CITY — Clarence Kruse, 84, of Hampton and Alfred Petzke, 83, of Rockford, Ill., have been friends for 60 years. They met during World War II, so it was only fitting that they teamed up once again and took the Honor Flight together Tuesday from Mason City to Washington, D.C.
Reflecting on it Wednesday, they both agreed — it was the stars, 4,000 of them, that caught their attention, a vision that will stay with them the rest of their lives.
The stars are on the World War II Memorial, one of the sites the veterans visited in Washington. Each star represents 100 of the 400,000 American servicemen and women who lost their lives in the war.
“That really grabbed me,” said Petzke. “What we did was zip compared to them.”
Kruse agreed. “Those were the real heroes,” he said. “A couple of buddies of mine from Hampton were killed in the war. That’s what I thought about.”
The men said the camaraderie with other veterans on the flight was a highlight as was the welcome they received when they arrived in Washington and returned home to Mason City. They laughed as they kidded each other about experiences they have shared in their 60-year friendship, including the time Kruse saved Petzke’s life. It happened during the war but a long way from overseas.
They served in basic training together at Fort Wolters, Texas, and then were assigned to Fort Benning, Ga. They were on weekend leave in Atlanta and went to a park with a huge swimming pool.
“Clarence jumped in and swam to the center where there was a concrete island that you could stand or sit on,” said Petzke.
“I jumped in and swam to the island, and just as I got there some GI dove in and hit my back and down I went. I tried to come up and as I was going down for the third time, Clarence grabbed me and pulled me up.
“It’s something you just do,” said Kruse. “You don’t let somebody drown.”
“He saved my life and now he has to put up with me,” said Petzke, and both men laughed.
Each entered the service in 1945, just before the war ended.
“We were all ready to go to Japan and then they dropped the bomb and, amen, it was over,” said Kruse.
Both veterans are dismayed that war seems to be inevitable.
“It’s sad,” said Petzke. “It seems like after World War II, we were never able to go to any war and win it — Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan.
“I think it’s because our reason for going to war has never been a good one. We go somewhere and get in, thinking we’re doing what their people want. Then we find out there are so many factions.
“And when that happens, we never seem to have a plan. I don’t know that we’ve learned a lot over the years from each war.”
Kruse agreed. “I don’t like it — but I admire the troops who are over there doing what they’re doing,” he said.
The Globe Gazette
CLEAR LAKE - It's been nearly 66 years since the U.S. dropped nuclear bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, effectively ending World War II.
That also ended the Manhattan Project - the government's development of "The Bomb" - to which Nora Springs native Helen (Hartwell) Crowell had dedicated about two years.
She worked in Ames as secretary for the project's head chemist at Iowa State College of Agricultural and Mechanic Arts, now Iowa State University. She can finally discuss the Manhattan Project.
To a point.
"It was very strict. Nobody knew what I was doing," said Crowell, 90, who now lives in Thousand Oaks, Calif. "You couldn't even talk about the weight of anything. It was unbelievable. I had no idea what I was getting into."
She graduated from Nora Springs High School in 1939, then moved on to Hamilton Business College in Mason City. She heard the Civil Service was hiring.
"I wanted to make a change," Crowell said.
FBI agents visited little Nora Springs, asking questions about the applicant. When she got the secretary's job, an armed guard was at her side when she delivered top-secret papers across campus.
She wanted to make a phone call to Oak Ridge, Tenn., only to be advised that there was no such place (workers in the "Secret City" produced enriched uranium for the first atom bombs).
Crowell said thousands of American soldiers - possibly her husband, U.S. Marine Stephen Crowell - would have died during an invasion of Japan.
They were spared when the Japanese surrendered Aug. 15, 1945, nine days after a uranium bomb code-named "Little Boy" was dropped on Hiroshima, and six days after another bomb, "Fat Man," was dropped on Nagasaki.
"It had to happen," Helen Crowell said last week while visiting her brother and sister-in-law, Paul and Gerda Hartwell, at their Clear Lake home.
She earned an Army-Navy "E" ("Excellence") lapel pin for her role in the Ames Project, which produced metallic uranium for the Manhattan Project.
She and Stephen married in 1947 after a "shipboard romance." They lived in Okinawa, Japan; then in Panama, where Steve worked on the nation's first microwave telecommunications device Helen also was a stewardess for now-defunct Western Airlines.
She and Steve were married 63 years. He died on Dec. 6, 2010, at age 88.
Helen Crowell and Paul Hartwell are the last of eight siblings. They will travel together during a Winnebago Honor Flight to Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, April 26.
Honor Flights honor World War II veterans - including Manhattan Project veterans - with a tour of D.C. memorials and Arlington National Cemetery.
"That's what I'm looking forward to, is having that sister with me," Paul said. "She was a tough cookie. I was very proud of her. I know she's pretty proud of what they did."
"Proud to be an American," Helen said.
The Globe Gazette
MASON CITY — The next Honor Flight, the eighth and final one, will honor a special group of war veterans.
“World War II veterans are still our priority but on this last flight, we also want to honor all Purple Heart recipients,” said Nancy Rockman of Mason City, one of the coordinators.
The flight will leave Mason City on the morning of Aug. 7 — National Purple Heart Day — and arrive in Washington, D.C.
The veterans will visit memorials for World War II, Korea and Vietnam as well as the Iwo Jima Memorial, Arlington National Cemetery and many tourist attractions. They will return to Mason City that night.
Purple Heart recipients and World War II veterans fly at no charge. Purple Heart veterans who went on previous Honor Flights as guardians are still eligible to go on the August flight, said Rockman. Veterans need to show their DD214 as verification of their Purple Heart status, she said.
Cost of the trip is $85,000, funded by donations so that veterans can enjoy it free of charge.
The Globe Gazette
HANLONTOWN — Ever since Honor Flight Winnebago was formed two years ago, sisters Connie OLTMAN, Manly, and Terri DATEMA, Clear Lake, have been trying to convince their father Kenneth DeWitt of Hanlontown to go on the trip. Knowing that the flight on Tuesday was the last one, they continued to push for it, but it wasn’t either of them who eventually convinced him to go.
"The mailman finally talked him into it," OLTMAN said with a laugh.
DeWITT admitted on Wednesday, the day after the trip, that it was his mail carrier who convinced him to go, and he was glad he did.
"It was real nice," said DeWITT, who was in the Army from 1944-1947 during World War II. "We saw a lot of things."
It was his first trip to Washington, D.C., which saw highs in the 80's on Tuesday.
Ag LEWIS, Mason City, had been to Washington before but said it was a "completely different experience" with the Honor Flight.
"It was much more memorable," said LEWIS who was a nurse in Gen. PATTON'S 3rd Army. "It's just different seeing it with the men who fought at all those places, and all the places I'd been and probably taken care of them. It was just a delight."
Fifty-eight World War II veterans participated in the day-long trip to Washington, D.C., on Tuesday. They returned around midnight that night after a storm delayed their flight for two hours. Waiting for them at the Mason City Municipal Airport were more than 100 North Iowans waving flags and holding signs.
"It was just fantastic," LEWIS said. "I just had no idea; I couldn't believe those people would stand in that cold. It was just unreal. Two hours late and they were still there bundled up like Eskimos."
DeWITT was surprised by how many people were still there, too. Family and friends were determined to wait despite the delay.
"We hope to (make it until midnight)," said Betty LAPOINTE, Mason City, one of LEWIS' friend. "There's a whole row of us out here to greet her."
World War II Army veteran Duane GALLIGAN, New Hampton, had 13 family members waiting for him. Most of them came from New Hampton, with a couple traveling from McGregor. Two of his grandchildren missed school to be there.
"We're very proud," said his daughter Colleen LEICHTMAN, New Hampton. "I think it's (Honor Flight) fantastic."
Lisa YUNEK, Mason City, agreed.
"I think it's an amazing thing getting the veterans to Washington, D.C., and being recognized," YUNEK said. "They really were the great generation."
She was there with her sisters Sandy HANSON, Mason City, and Gina LOVEJOY, Boise, Idaho, to welcome home their father, Gerald STUDER, and uncle, Richard HAIDEN, both of Mason City.
The Globe Gazette
The next Honor Flight, tentatively scheduled for Aug. 7, 2012 will not only honor World War II veterans but all Purple Heart veterans as well.
Nancy Rockman, one of the Mason City organizers, said Aug. 7 has special significance since it is National Purple Heart Day.
Honor Flight Winnebago, the local sponsor of Honor Flights, has flown 602 World War II veterans to Washington, D.C., in seven trips since the program started.
Rockman said plans are to take any World War II veterans meeting medical requirements plus about 130 Purple Heart recipients from the Korean War to present day. The veterans will be from an eight-county area.
"All Purple Heart applications must be accompanied by a DD-214, with no exceptions," she said.
Rockman said there will be no need for guardians to accompany the World War II veterans on this flight because the Purple Heart veterans will be there to assist the older veterans.
World War II and Purple Heart veterans will travel at no cost to themselves. But Rockman said the total cost of the trip is about $80,000 so fundraisers are planned.
The Globe Gazette
MASON CITY — It was as if a history book came alive Tuesday. With laughs and yes, some tears.
Eighty-four Purple Heart veterans, many of them in wheelchairs, were part of the contingent of the eighth and last Honor Flight expedition to Washington, D.C.
There were many pages to this living book.
There was Ron Behr of Rockwell, a Vietnam veteran, standing at the Vietnam War Memorial and finding the names of three fallen comrades with whom he served.
He placed his finger beneath each name and took a picture of it.
“This was more than 40 years ago. I want to send the pictures to their relatives. I want them to know I was there, that I am here, that I remember and that I still care,” he said.
His voice cracked and a tear welled up in one of his eyes. “There is that feeling of what might have been,” he said.
Turn the page and find Jerry Kelley of Nora Springs, looking at the hundreds of visitors, a seemingly never-ending stream of them paying their respects at the Vietnam War Memorial.
“When I came home, I wore civilian clothes so no one would recognize me as a Vietnam vet,” he said. “One night I went into a bar and a woman knew I was a veteran. She was anti-war and she came over and poured a bottle of beer all over my head.”
The incident was long ago but the sting of it could be seen in Kelley’s eyes and heard in his voice.
The living history book includes the scene of the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery. It is done in phases but always includes the men taking exactly 21 steps as they march back and forth in the ritual — the 21 symbolizing the 21-gun salute to war heroes.
“Tell your stories,” Jack Caputo of Forest City, organizer of the local Honor Flights, told the veterans. “Every time a veteran dies, a library closes,” he said.
The library was still open Tuesday.
On the plane ride back to Mason City, 95-year-old Ralph Johnson of Mason City sat next to Donald Kock, 93, of Glenville, Minn. At one point, Kock leaned over to a passenger across the aisle and asked to borrow a pen. With pen in hand, these old warriors of 60 years ago, who had never met until Tuesday, exchanged addresses. A new friendship was born.
Peter Bieber, who earned a Purple Heart in Iraq when he was injured in the same incident in which Josh Knowles was killed, addressed the veterans on the plane on the way home. He thanked the Honor Flight staff for their efforts and all of the veterans for the service and sacrifices they made. But Bieber, who served two tours in Iraq with the Iowa National Guard unit from Mason City, said he especially wanted to thank the more than 100 Vietnam veterans on the trip.
“You did not get the homecoming you deserved,” he said. “But because of what happened to you, you have made sure the same thing will never happen to other veterans such as me, and I am deeply grateful.”
John Perkins photograph courtesy of Clear Lake Mirror Reporter
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