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Local vets couldn't miss final Freedom Flight

U.S. Army veterans and longtime friends Andy Emmert and Levi Pence will participate in the final Jasper County Freedom Flight to Washington, D.C. on Tuesday.
U.S. Army veterans and longtime friends Andy Emmert and Levi Pence will participate in the final Jasper County Freedom Flight to Washington, D.C. on Tuesday.

When Levi Pence purchased the original Wallace Funeral Family Home in 1984, he inherited something else along with the business: Andy Emmert. Pence and Emmert formed a bond over the years, and together will they travel on the final Jasper County Freedom Flight.

“I just asked him if he would go, since this may be the last one,” Pence said. “He said, “He would go, if I go.”

“(Andy) was one that I would go with,” Emmert said. “There’s two or three that I would go with, but I would absolutely turn some of them down. Levi and I have been awful close since we’ve known each other. I rather go with Levi than any of them.”

Emmert is a World War II veteran who joined the Army at 28 years old and he is approaching his 99th birthday. Pence is a Vietnam veteran who has been actively involved in the community since he moved to Newton in 1982.

In addition to both of them being veterans, the duo said they began to bond by doing projects together along with Pence’s father. Pence said that they are close to all of their employees, but this relationship is different.

“Andy, became more than an employee, he’s been more family,” Pence said.

“I feel like I am a part of the family,” Emmert added. “Levi is just like a son to me.

Both vets are planning on taking in all the sites that Washington, D.C., has to offer and are glad to make the trip together.

“Maybe Levi pushed me a little harder,” Emmert said jokingly. “I didn’t want to go. I felt uneasy, I don’t know why.”

“I realized that it was the last trip,” Pence said. “I figure Andy should go, he served his time and should be able to take advantage of the trip.”

Both men had different reasons for going into the service. Emmert signed up a month after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and Pence was drafted after college.

“When I was drafted, back in 69 ... I was slated to go to Vietnam,” Pence said. “When I was home for leave, my cousin, who I had lived with before I was drafted, he joined the Marine Core. He was killed in a helicopter over in Vietnam. His name is on the Vietnam Wall.”

Emmert served the entirety of his 45 months in the South Pacific and has stories to tell.

“They kept wanting me to go to OCS, officers training school,” Emmert said. “Well I don’t know why I would want to go to officer’s training school, when I was on top of the line with sergeants and things like that. I kept turning them down.”

“So then one day they came and had me sign a paper,” Emmert continued. “It was for a direct officer commission, they made me an officer. I ended up a second lieutenant. The sad part about it was they made me buy all the clothes.”

The men are very grateful for this opportunity, although it took years of coaxing to get Emmert to go along.

“We both want to say thank you to Jasper County for this Freedom Flight,” Pence said.

“They have done a wonderful job,” Pence added.

Staff writer Ty Rushing may be contacted at (641)-792-3121, ext. 426, or

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