Veterans bring their lives full circle in ‘final mission’ to Washington D.C.

Published: Sep. 12, 2022 at 6:31 PM CDT
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WASHINGTON D.C. (KTIV) - After they stepped off that chartered aircraft, it was time for the veterans to see those memorials and monuments. For many of the veterans, it was their first time ever in the nation’s capital.

Let’s start here at the U.S. Navy Memorial in Washington D.C. The fountains are filled with waters from the seven oceans and the Great Lakes. That type of confluence is something the veterans have been talking about all day. One trip that brings together service members from every branch.

“In this day and age, we’re still all Americans when you stand here on the backdrop of the Air Force Memorial. This is a special day. Glad to be here,” said Scott Ulrich, a volunteer and Air Force veteran.

The Korean War Memorial is one of the most walk-able memorials we’ve seen today. And this memorial has a special significance to one Sioux City veteran.Thomas DeWitte bestowed the Eagle Scout award on Aaron Van Beek years ago.

Turns out, Van Beek would launch this iteration of the Midwest Honor Flight, returning the favor to DeWitte, who got to see Washington D.C. for the first time.

“Well, I think I think it’s a really appropriate way to honor veterans that have given some of their years to be in the service,” said Thomas DeWitte, a Korean war veteran.

The memorial visits didn’t stop there.

Veterans had an up close and personal look at the changing of the guard at Arlington National Cemetery, a photo opportunity at the Iwo Jima memorial, a stop at the Air Force Memorial which includes a view of the Pentagon, the Washington Monument and the U.S. Capitol building.

All of the stops had a real impact on World War II veteran Anthony Reidell. He’d seen many of the memorials before, but not like this, surrounded by his fellow service members.

“I’ve seen some of them before, but seeing what’s going on now in this kind of renewing new memories,” said Anthony Reidell, a WWII veteran from South Dakota.

And a majority of veterans on this edition of the Midwest Honor Flight were from the Vietnam War. And that made this final stop here at the Vietnam War Memorial all that more special.

Guardians lead the way

Aside from Honor Flight staff, there was another group of volunteers who made the trip possible. They’re known as guardians.

People who paid their own way to join the mission and support a veteran, one-on-one, throughout the day. Many were related to the veteran they supported.

But, some joined on their own, and were matched with a veteran they met for the first time that day. Honor Flight officials say the flight would have been impossible without their help.

“If you have a chance, donate for sure. Keep it going. It’s really important to the vets and if you have that, want to volunteer as a guardian, do it,” said Diane Miller, a guardian for the Midwest Honor Flight.

If you’re interested in taking an Honor Flight, becoming a guardian or donating to help the effort, head to Your impact could be felt right away.

Another flight is scheduled to leave from Sioux Falls on October 1st.