A group of courageous World War II and Korean War veterans received heroesâ welcomes from the Vikings and patriotic citizens on Saturday when the group returned from the 17th Honor Flight Twin Cities on May 6.
A group of courageous World War II and Korean War veterans received heroes' welcomes from the Vikings and patriotic citizens on Saturday when the group returned from the 17th **Honor Flight Twin Cities*** *on May 6.
Vikings Legends Paul Krause and Dave Osborn, Minnesota Vikings Cheerleaders Hannah and Karmen, Alumni Affairs Coordinator Tracy McDonald, her husband, Pete, and parents, LaDon and JoAn Hoefling, and Archive Coordinator Zach Tarrant joined a huge crowd at MSP Terminal 2 as 76 veterans from the wars returned from a trip to Washington, D.C.
The veterans and accompanying trained guardians participated that day in the 17th Honor Flight Twin Cities, an eventful and emotional experience that gives American heroes a chance to visit the National World War II and Korean War Veterans Memorial in the nation's capital.
"It's a spiritual, emotional day for these men," said Jerry Kyser, a Vietnam Veteran who has organized each flight for veterans in the Twin Cities and Western Wisconsin. "We had one gentleman who was 97 years old. The youngest was 84. We had some people who were World War II and Korea combat veterans.
"We … put them back into the military and honor them for keeping America free for us," Kyser added. "It's our job as a community and veterans to honor them."
Kyser said the group was welcomed when they arrived at Reagan National Airport and throughout their visits on a day that also included somber moments. In addition to visiting the monuments, the group watched the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery.
When the group returned, a spirited gathering of friends, family and people they had never met expressed appreciation to the heroes with stars and stripes balloons, signs, hugs and tears of joy.
"The veterans were very pleased, and we had a great time," Kyser said.
This flight included 43 veterans of World War II and 33 veterans of the Korean War. It also was named in honor of late Coast Guard Chief Warrant Officer Dale Cotch, who passed away in January at age 58 after a battle with cancer. Cotch participated as a guardian, paying his way through donations on nine honor flights to escort veterans. His wife, Mary, and son, Dylan, participated in his flight, taking his burial flag with them.
The Honor Flight national effort began in May 2005. It has provided trips to visit the memorials for more than 180,000 veterans and 115,000 guardians.
Honor Flight Twin Cities launched in 2008 and has helped more than 2,800 participants make these special visits at a cost of about $500 per veteran.
The next Honor Flight Twin Cities is scheduled for Sept. 30, 2017. Visit **honorflighttwincities.org** for more information or to support the cause with a tax-deductible donation.