Navy veterans reflect on service, brotherhood during Honor Flight

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

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Navy Memorial takes up an entire plaza along Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington D.C. It’s masts, waterfalls, and lone sailor statue were dedicated on October 13, 1987 – the 212th birthday of the U.S. Navy.

It stands as a testament to the servicemen and women of America’s Navy – two of whom I spoke to during Midwest Honor Flight’s Mission 10 on June 1.

“It’s the bonding that’s going on, and the, you know, talks that have been going on and the different experiences that everybody has shared,” says Jon Dykstra. “It’s just absolutely amazing.”

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Korea Veteran Thomas Secrest, of Spearfish, holds his U.S. Navy photo during a group picture at the Navy Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Dykstra, a Vietnam veteran from Hospers, Iowa, was overwhelmed with emotion standing at the Navy Memorial.

“The way we’ve been received now, you know, we were baby killers when we came back, but now we’re received – and to see this with a bunch of veterans, it’s just absolutely amazing,” Dykstra adds. “It’s very emotional, and yeah, it’s just hard to explain.”

Veteran Thomas Secrest of Spearfish – holding a photo from his time in the service – said being at the memorial was a truly emotional experience.

“You can’t…you can’t describe it,” says Secrest, who served in the U.S. Navy during Korea. “You can learn, if you will, through history.”

For vets like Dykstra, being celebrated all day while traveling with Midwest Honor Flight is vastly different from the last time they came home.

“It’s hard to understand what it was like if you weren’t there at the time, because the reception for Iraq and Iran…it was entirely different, you know? Desert Storm, you know?,” Dykstra says. “Most of the people when we came back really didn’t want us over there, and they didn’t show any appreciation for us being there, and that’s how we got received, you know? And now when we see it the way it is this morning, where we stop and we have people clapping and thanking us for our service…I’m glad I did it…I’m glad I did it.”

Midwest Honor Flight helped to provide some closure – and bonding – for our nation’s veterans.

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