Off to Washington

One of the first things the veterans arriving for the Brushy Creek Area Honor Flight saw when they got out of their cars at the Fort Dodge Regional Airport Saturday for their flight to Washington, D.C., was Korean War veteran John Olmstead, of Fort Dodge.

He was sitting quietly in the motorized chair that gets him around.

He held a large American flag that waved in the breeze.

The bright lights set up to illuminate the area in the morning dark shone through it.

It has seen many comings and goings.

“It’s an old flag,” he said, “It’s over 100 years old.”

He is one of a series of people entrusted with the flag’s care; it’s been used for generations at the Otho Cemetery.

“They had that flag when I was 5,” he said.

Olmstead said he flew on the previous Honor Flight, and like many of those who came to see the veterans and their guardians off Saturday morning, wanted to pay his respects and say thank you.

Donald Beck and his wife of more than 60 years, Lila, had said goodbye once before.

That time, he was going into the Navy, and they were expecting a son.

He said he missed them greatly.

“It gets lonesome out there on the ocean for a couple of years,” he said.

This time, he was only going to be gone for the day.

It’s his first trip to Washington D.C. He said he was looking forward to seeing the monuments.

“I’ve always wanted to go,” he said.

Charles Nerem, of Thor, made sure he inspected his Honor Flight dog tags before the departure. The Army veteran served 26 years in the Army. He retired as a sergeant major and did a number of jobs, including some time in a tank.

Like Beck, he was looking forward to seeing the monuments. However, the highlight of his day was going to be the others who had served.

“Swapping stories with these guys,” he said.

Aubrey King, of Manson, served in the Army in Korea.

He was waiting patiently in the hangar to meet up with his guardian to board the plane – a process slightly akin to the military’s hurry up and wait.

“Kind of like that,” he joked.

He was ready for some adventure.

“It’s all going to be interesting,” he said.

He was also looking forward spending time with his fellow veterans.

“We can share some of the stories you don’ want to tell your wife,” he said.

Before he went through the security checkpoint, Ken Hanna, of Fort Dodge, got a big hug from his daughter, Shirley Hattman.

She drove eight hours from Indianapolis to see him off. He’s traveling with her brother, Randy Hanna, also a military veteran.

“I think it will be a good bonding experience,” she said, “It’s good for the healing process.”

She is happy that her dad can have the experience of going to Washington and also of being greeted with the welcome they receive on their arrival back in Fort Dodge.

“A lot of them didn’t get a welcome home,” she said.

She isn’t going to miss that either.

“Of course I’m coming back,” she said, “With bells on our feet.”

During their stay in Washington, the group planned to visit the Lincoln, Korean, Vietnam and World War II monuments.

In addition, they planned to visit Arlington National Cemetery and witness the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier with a last stop at the Iwo Jima Monument.