Honor Flight gives Vietnam vets the welcome home they deserve

This is part five of a six-part series on Midwest Honor Flight's Mission 10.

WASHINGTON — Our nation’s Vietnam veterans didn’t always receive the welcome home afforded to those fighting in other wars.

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A veteran and guardian pair take a rubbing of a name on the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C.

Midwest Honor Flight aims to give them the honor and respect they deserve.

“It’s been very overwhelming because I never expected to ever be here,” says Dawn Rinehart, U.S. Air Force. “I never expected to have this opportunity. I submitted my name like four years ago, and I never, ever dreamed this would ever happen.”

They spent a day in Washington, seeing our nation’s capital and visiting the memorials dedicated to their service.

“I’m really proud that I have honorable family, you know, pictures hanging on my wall. I’ve never felt like I belong with them,” Rinehart adds.

For several Vietnam vets on Mission 10, it was an emotional experience that brought some closure.

“Well, I even got put down by my father, so it’s like vindication for what we did,” says Martin Saffel, U.S. Navy.

The Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington D.C. lists the names of the 58,318 Americans who died during the conflict. The wall itself was dedicated on November 11, 1982, and was accompanied by a 56-hour reading of all the names of the dead.

Navy veteran David Fahlsing reflected on finding his friends and family on the wall.

Reporter: “Can you tell me about the name that you found on the wall?

Fahlsing: “It was my cousin on this wall here; where I was there was 41 more guys on this wall.”

It’s been a long journey for these vets, after COVID-19 disrupted Honor Flight’s missions – but it was worth the wait.

“We signed up a few years ago, but with COVID, we finally got to go,” Fahlsing says. “We probably otherwise – and everyone else that’s on the Honor Flight – would probably never get the chance to come here.”

It’s a final tour with honor for our nation’s heroes.

“This day is…I’ve never been so pampered,” Rinehart says. “I feel totally out of my realm.”

Stay tuned all week on NewsCenter1 and ConnectCenter1 for in-depth stories from Midwest Honor Flight’s Mission 10!

Midwest Honor Flight is a hub of the Honor Flight Network. It’s a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) organization that takes veterans of World War II, Korea, and Vietnam veterans to Washington, D.C. to see the memorials dedicated to their service. The trip is provided entirely free-of-charge to the veterans. 

CLICK HERE for more information on Midwest Honor Flight, including how to apply for a trip and information on donations.

Categories: ConnectCenter1-Military, Local News, South Dakota News