Northland Veterans Take Flight: Tour Nation's Capital

By KBJR News 1

May 15, 2011 Updated May 9, 2014 at 11:11 AM CDT

Washington, D.C (Northland's NewsCenter) -- More than 100 World War Two Veterans from the Northland received a very special honor this weekend.

They traveled to Washington D.C. to visit a memorial honoring their war time service and sacrifice during an important turning point in history.

It was all thanks to the first ever Honor Flight Northland.

Kevin Jacobsen was invited along for the journey and tells us about this once in a lifetime "thank you" for our war heroes.

They arrived on foot.

Others rolled in by wheelchair.

It was an early morning wake up call for an event more than six decades in the making.

But, these tired faces of war would turn to smiling ones on board the flight to the Nation's Capital.

A mail call was the first of the day's many surprises.

Veterans received letters from their families, students and strangers wishing them well on their journey and thanking them for service.

Upon arrival at Reagan International Airport, the men and women of war received a hero's welcome.

Handshakes, hugs and kisses, a celebration of their bravery and dedication.

A cloudy, gray day welcomed the Northland's Great Generation to the World War Two Memorial.

For Veterans like Joseph Balach it was a time to reflect.

"It represents the recognition this generation saw was a problem and they took care of it."

For others, like 95-year-old Bill Monberg, the oldest Veteran on the trip, it was a time to remember.

"Most of my buddies are gone, but we still gotta go on," he said. "Still have a little time left."

The nearly 7 year–old memorial honors both those who are still alive and those who have passed.

Karin Swor's father, Sid Henson a reserve in the Navy, died last year.

"Unreal and I think about my dad and what he did and what these other men and women did and how awesome it is we were able to finally get a memorial for them."

The visit to Washington also included visits to other war land marks, including the Iwo Jima and the Vietnam Veteran war memorials.

They are memorials that hold a special place in Bob Ballou's heart.

"It's so simple in its design, but yet, when you walk down into this lower level, you get emotionally involved," Ballou said. "Seeing all these thousands of names of GIs that have fallen in that awful war."

Several Veterans, like Wayne Johnson have visited these landmarks before. But, he says each visit is special.

"This has been a unique experience to again see some of the memorials I haven't had an opportunity to see. It brought back a lot of memories."

Memories these Veterans will keep with them in their final years.

"It kind of brought peace and finality to it for me as a World War II vet," Bob Ballou added.

It was a long, tiring day for these men and women who've faced much more difficult situations on the front lines.

If these Veterans needed one more reminder of people's for their dedication, it came on their return to Duluth.

Loved ones stood ready to give them a proper hero's welcome home from their day–long mission.

The flight was free of charge for the 100 veterans. The response has been so overwhelming, another one will take flight in October.

Starting Tuesday night at ten, Kevin Jacobsen will continue his reports on the Honor Flight and the unique stories best told by World War II veterans themselves.

Written for the web by Kevin Jacobsen
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Twitter: KevinJacobsen