WATERLOO — On the eve of the 18th anniversary of the attack on U.S. soil of Sept. 11, 2001, 95 veterans on Tuesday headed to Washington, D.C., to remember their service.
The Cedar Valley Honor Flight has transported more than 2,200 veterans to Washington, D.C., since its inception.
Linda Bergmann, Cedar Valley Honor Flight coordinator, has gone on 18 of the 25 honor flights.
“It’s a service that’s needed for a lot of veterans,” Bergmann said. The camaraderie of being around so many fellow veterans helps a lot of those veterans release their baggage.
“It goes right to your heart,” Bergmann said.
Going on the eve of the anniversary of 9/11 gave Tuesday’s flight a deeper significance for many of the veterans, considering they’ll see the Pentagon, which was one of the buildings attacked that day.
Donald “Gary” Papenheim, U.S. Marine veteran, served from 1972 to 1976 and deployed to Vietnam during that time.
“It sets a tone that the United States is the land of the free,” Papenheim said.
“It proves that as Americans we go forward,” Bergmann said.
The flight takes veterans of the Vietnam War, World War II and the Korean War to Washington to view the many war memorials residents of Iowa wouldn’t regularly be able to see.
There was only one World War II veteran on this trip, Dick Ormston, 94, of Waverly.
The Honor Flight was first established in 2004 for the benefit of World War II vets, but has expanded to bring Korean and Vietnam war veterans in recent years.
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Ormston served from 1945 to 1946 as part of the 82nd Airborne Division, but didn’t deploy to any combat zones.
“I never got out of the United States,” Ormston said. “I didn’t think I deserved it (to go), but they finally talked me into it.”
He’s seen a lot of fellow veterans go on the flight, and seeing their experiences helped push him to sign up.
“It’s an honor, and I marvel at how organized everything is,” Ormston said.
Yolando Loveless, Black Hawk County Veterans Affairs executive director, joined the flight for the first time as a chaperone.
“It gives me an opportunity to feel what it’s about so I can promote it more,” Loveless said.
Loveless wants to make sure past veterans are cherished and looks forward to talking with older veterans.
“They have a lasting memory,” Loveless said. “They set the pace for us.”
State Sen. Bill Dotzler joined his fellow veterans on the flight while accompanied by his grandson. Dotzler served in the U.S. Army from 1969 to 1972.
“It’s a pretty amazing and great thing,” Dotzler said. “It’s really a special flight.”
For Dotzler the flight isn’t just for the veterans, but for their families.
“I’m honored to have my grandson along with me, and that experience together will make it extra special,” Dotzler said. “It’s going to be a special day.”