Now that I’ve finished the last of eight stories for the special Southwest Minnesota Honor Flight edition that publishes on Saturday, I finally have time to sit down and reflect on the last several days.
All of the planning that went into Honor Flight culminated in two very busy, short days in Washington, D.C. Before I could pinch myself and make sure this was really happening, it was over.
Despite my best attempts to convey the feelings of our World War II veterans on being able to take this Honor Flight free of charge to view their memorial, I feel like I can’t possibly express it in words.
One veteran told me, "You just had to be there."
Well, I was there … and even I have trouble expressing everything they experienced.
I’ve come to know some of these veterans fairly well in the months leading up to Honor Flight. So many of them like to joke and like to tease, but when it comes down to it, they have some of the softest hearts of anyone I know.
What I haven’t written in any of the stories about our trip is that a very special couple didn’t make it on our journey.
The story of Hooley and Lorraine Huehn appeared in the Daily Globe the day before our flight. He served in the Marine Corps and she was a Navy nurse. They were to be the only married World War II veterans on our inaugural flight.
On Friday morning, just as we arrived at the airport in Sioux Falls for our departure, Lorraine became ill and was taken via ambulance from the airport. Hooley and their son, who was to be a guardian, stayed with Lorraine. Though she was not admitted to the hospital – and it turned out she was going to be just fine – they weren’t able to make the journey with us.
I thought of them often Friday and Saturday, worrying about Lorraine and wishing Hooley could have been at the Iwo Jima Memorial he was so looking forward to seeing. I hope they’ll be able to make the Honor Flight trip planned for this fall.
As for those on the trip, I wish everyone could have seen the smiles on their faces, the glimmer in their eyes, the pride they surely felt. Photographer Brian Korthals did his best to capture those images … images worth more than a thousand words.