You've likely heard of Honor Flights before. Believe it or not, there are still veterans in southeast South Dakota and northwest Iowa who haven't been able to fly to Washington, D.C. to see the memorials built in their honor. Midwest Honor Flight is a brand new organization hoping to raise enough money to get them there.
Born in 1925, Glenn Gregg from Hawarden, Iowa, was chomping at the bit to join the Army when he turned 18.
"It was an exciting time. Geez, when we got out of high school we couldn't wait to get in the service," Gregg said.
Emotions were running high after the attack on Pearl Harbor that drew the United States into World War II.
"I didn't care where I went. I just wanted to go in and have them put me where they thought I should be," Gregg said.
Gregg was drafted into the infantry. He landed in Normandy with the 29th Division, 116th Regiment, 10 days after D-Day. A mile inside Germany in 1944, on the front lines, he got shot in the leg by the enemy while running from foxhole to foxhole.
"It wasn't a big serious wound, but there was a rifle shot that hit the road that we were behind and ricocheted into my leg," Gregg said.
Given the option to go to a hospital in Belgium, he instead volunteered to go back to the front. From a Purple Heart to a Bronze Star when his unit being cut off in Germany, Gregg's heroism is just one reason why Aaron Van Beek started Midwest Honor Flight this March.
"Very small token of the American people's appreciation that we can give back to them. To take them out to their memorials that were dedicated for their service and sacrifice," Van Beek said.
The senior at Dordt College is trying to raise nearly $80,000 to charter a plane for 65 World War II and Korean War veterans. He's hoping you'll come to an upcoming event at Calico Skies Vineyard and Winery or sign up to be a veteran's guardian for the day trip.
"When the day is done, they're just so happy. Just everything that goes on throughout the day. They're just talkative about everything," Van Beek said.
For Gregg, at age 92 with a non-curable blood disease, it may be his last chance to go. Until then, he'll keep with him deep pride of his time in the service and love for his comrades who didn't make it back.
"You see what you've done and you see the response that there is at home here. It makes you think, geez I'm glad they drafted me. Even though I was 18, I'm glad I got a part of it," Gregg said. "It makes me pretty proud."
The first Midwest Honor Flight mission will take off on August 22. Van Beek is still taking veteran applications. If you'd like to donate to the cause or take part in the Wine Gala and Auction at Calico Skies on July 7.
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Here you will find updates on members, flights, events, and fundraising to stay up-to-date on every Midwest Honor Flight.
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Schedule a phone or live interview with Aaron Van Beek, President & Director of Midwest Honor Flight, by sending an email or giving us a call at (712) 463-2020.