When I first learned of the Southwest Minnesota Honor Flight project early last December, I could not have imagined that within a span of less than five months, the first flight would be taking off from the Sioux Falls Airport filled with 110 World War II veterans and 52 guardians, staff and press people.
Yet here we are … today is a big day. It’s a big day for the men and women who selflessly served their country in its time of need. This Honor Flight came about not only as a way to get our World War II veterans to Washington, D.C., to see the memorial built for them, but as a way for us here in southwest Minnesota to say thank you.
Thanks to all veterans, we have the freedoms we enjoy today.
Attending the pre-flight banquet Thursday night in Luverne, I got teary-eyed more than once as I saw our local heroes arrive. Having had a chance to interview about one-fifth of the contingent going on this inaugural flight, I know how much they have been looking forward to this day.
It has been such an honor to interview these men and women over the past 19 weeks and share their stories with our readers. I have learned so much from them … not just about geography (only a couple veterans chided me when I had to ask where islands like Tinian and Roi were located), but about life in general.
To hear how these men and women lived through the war, came home and made a life for themselves and their families is truly inspiring.
I have wonderful memories of the people I’ve met in the past five months … chatting with Jake Dekker at his dining room table, interviewing Art Broekhuis over the telephone because it was blizzarding outside (he was the only veteran I didn’t interview in person), sharing homemade cookies and tea with Johnny Johnson, being scared of Elgie Rachuy’s big German shepherd (I stayed in my car until Elgie came out of the house and called his dog away from my car door), laughing with Don Moffitt and his wife (she was quite the jokester … telling me they had "five kids, I think" only to be corrected by Don that they had three!), and last, but certainly not least, seeing the love that Hooley and Lorraine Huehn have for each other after all these years.
To share a love like that (I noticed this in several of the couples I met) … that’s what life is all about.
I know I’ve left people out and I apologize for that. It’s late, we have a busy two days ahead in Washington, D.C., and ultimately … I just want to say thanks for the memories and I look forward to making so many more on this journey with our southwest Minnesota heroes who truly are part of the greatest generation.