Veterans humbled by honor of whirlwind D.C. visit

Staff Writer
Story City Herald
Veterans humbled by honor of whirlwind D.C. visit

—by Melissa Erickson, Ames Tribune Assoc. Editor

Long before the sun rose last Tuesday (Oct. 7), members of the 2014 Story County Freedom Flight were gathering in Ames to start their journey to view the national monuments in Washington, D.C. The group of 148 veterans who either live in Story County now, or did at the time they entered the service, included World War II, Korean War and Vietnam War veterans.

With all of the veterans decked out in their bright gold Freedom Flight shirts and jackets, army veteran Bill Carlson joked the trip was “kind of like being back in the military with everyone dressed the same.”

Carlson, who served from 1969 to 1978, said he appreciated Sunday’s send-off ceremony for the trip, and said it was a big contrast to the reception when he came home from Vietnam.

“You didn’t even wear your uniform then,” Carlson said. “Pretty much a second-class citizen. Even my best friends didn’t really understand that we didn’t have a choice. It was hard to deal with at that time.”

Even though the trip to see the World War II, Korean War and Vietnam War Memorials was meant to be a way of saying thanks to the veterans for their service, many of the vets expressed gratitude for the people who organized the trip and those who made donations to fund the flight.

“It’s pretty special that all of these people did all this work to put together this honor for us to go to Washington and see our monuments,” said Ole Skaar Jr., of Story City, an air force veteran who served from 1971 to 1975. “I want them to know we really appreciate it.”

The veterans started their whirlwind day in Washington by visiting Arlington National Cemetery and laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. They also viewed the Air Force Memorial, the U.S. Navy Memorial and the Marine Corps Memorial before boarding the plane home Tuesday night.