About 140 of Jasper County’s estimated 3,000 veterans started to arrive at Newton Senior High School as early 3:30 a.m. to make sure they didn’t miss the final Freedom Flight. Around 20 volunteers served them coffee and donuts and none of the guys or gals going on the trip seemed to mind getting up extra early this morning.
“Are you guys ready to go?” Freedom Flight organizer Doug Bishop asked the crowd of vets who gave a raucous cheer in response.
From there the vets were all smiles as they loaded into four Hawkeye Stages motor coaches and were escorted to the Interstate 80 on-ramp by the Newton Police Department for the trek to Des Moines International Airport.
Howard and Doug Snook were one of the few father and son duo’s who were making the trip together.
“He is 93 and a World War II veteran and I was in Vietnam,” Doug said. “Our wars are about 30 years apart and we are about 30 years apart in age, so it worked out pretty good.”
Along Interstate 80 emergency responders from the Colfax and Mingo Fire Departments were parked on both on and exit ramps standing by their vehicles and saluting. When the “red” bus passed the last of them on the Oswalt Bridge there was universal applause and demands that the bus driver honk the horn more.
At airport the vets were greeted by Story County Freedom Flight volunteers and Patriot Guard Riders.
“They helped us get started, so we are trying to return the favor,” SCFF volunteer Terry Pettit said.
The vets are expected to arrive home from Washington, D.C., at 10:30 p.m.
Staff writer Ty Rushing may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 426, or at email@example.com.