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Veteran thankful for Freedom Flight opportunity

Published: Monday, Oct. 21, 2013 11:25 a.m. CDT

To the editor:

Though time has passed since Jasper County Freedom Flight 2013, and my “thank you” didn’t get sent to the Newton Daily News editorial department, my memories of the trip — and of all the people who took part and made it happen, and the veterans who shared that special day and night — still linger in my heart and mind.

A memory forever, of a humbling experience for me, a senior veteran of the Korean War.

“Flashback” memories of the send-off parade and ceremony made me feel like a real hero, though I am not one. And on the morning of the flight, during the trip on the bus from Newton to then Des Moines airport, we witnessed the Colfax Fire Department present on area overpasses with trucks, their lights flashing, and firemen standing, waving and yelling send-off wishes to we veterans.

When we arrived at the airport, so many “well wishes” and “farewells” greeted us. An overwhelming, emotional feeling added to by seeing the Patriot Guard and Legion Riders lined up, forming an aisle of our beautiful American flags along with family and friends waving smaller ones.

The flight itself was great (I love flying, so this, too, was a special treat for me). We were greeted at the D.C. airport by many others. Honor Guards with American flags and “thank yous” for serving our country.

Seeing all the memorials and monuments of past wars, and the beautiful surroundings. Getting to see “The Wall” of Vietnam veterans, and of Korean veterans. The Arlington National Cemetery changing of the guards made me think back to those years long past, but yet remembering how blessed I am to be an American; proud of our country and glad I was able to serve.

It was a long day and a late night for all, but on the flight home, before arriving at Des Moines International Airport, all were much surprised and touched by “Mail Call.” More emotions emerged; a tear-jerking experience for me for sure (I noticed others wiping their eyes, as well).

When we got off the plane, we all were welcomed home again by Patriot Guards and Legion Riders lined up with American flags, “Welcome Home” signs by family and friends, hugs and smiles, greetings of love and greatfulness.

What very, very special memories to give to our county veterans.

Though I personally gave my “thank yous” on the day and night of the Freedom Flight, I wish to confirm my sincerity by repeating this thank-you to Doug Bishop, who organized and made possible this Freedom Flight; to the Red Shirt volunteers; and to my special Red Shirt “guardian” for the day, Tammy.

Many thanks for all the volunteers, the many Jasper County Residents, to those who donated and gave money as well as time to fund the trip to D.C. Thank you to all the veterans who shared with me their handshakes, their smiles and their stories from military days. And even the joy the day brought to each of them.

I thank my wife, grandchildren, sister-in-law, nieces and nephews, Monroe American Legion Auxiliary ladies, the PCM Senior Class of 2013, and several friends for the letters they wrote me that I received at the suprise “Mail Call.”

There were so many people who I’m sure were involved in making this memorable trip possible for we Jasper County veterans, and I give my gratitude to all. So, for the privilege and honor and lasting memories given me through the Freedom Flight 2013 trip and activities connected, I describe it all this way:

T houghtful

H umbling

A wesome

N oble

K aleidoscopic

Y ea for veterans

O utstanding

U nique

Floyd F. Neff

Monroe

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