Approximately 400 Iowa veterans of the Korean War will take what one of them said “is a trip of a lifetime” next month to view the memorial in Washington, D.C., to those who served in that overlooked conflict.
“This is fantastic,” said Korean War veteran Dale Lane of Council Bluffs.
The Honor Flight to Washington, D.C. for these veterans will take place on Sept. 30 with departure from Des Moines International Airport. About half of the vets on board will come from western Iowa, said Jeff Ballenger, a longtime honor flight organizer.
“Veterans answered the call for us,” he said during an announcement ceremony Thursday morning at the Casey’s General Store on Virginia Hills Road.
“To say we owe them a huge degree of recognition is an understatement,” added Casey’s CEO Bob Myers.
Casey’s and Hy-Vee Food Stores are each providing $110,000 for the expenses, with additional funds coming from Polk County officials and three anonymous donors, Ballenger said.
Hy-Vee has been a partner in these periodic flights for years, said Mitch Streit, Madison Avenue store manager.
“We’re pleased to help fund the next one,” he said during ceremonies at the store.
The vets will see other war monuments in addition to the one honoring the Korean War.
“This is a trip of a lifetime for people like us,” Lane said, adding that the term ‘war’ wasn’t used during that three-year conflict that began in 1950.
“It was termed a ‘policing action,’” he said.
Though he served on a ship during that conflict, Lane recalled the conditions on the Korean peninsula for the ground troops as “horrendous.”
The end result was the demilitarized zone along the 38th parallel separating North Korea from South Korea.
“We still have people guarding that,” Lane said.
Fellow vet Bill Schorsch of Council Bluffs added the two nations “still don’t get along” and remain at war more than 60 years after the end of American involvement.
For nearly a decade, these flights take taken around 3,000 veterans of World War II and the Korean conflict to view the monuments built in honor of their service.
“These flights mean a lot to our veterans,” Ballenger said.