The man behind the mission: Midwest Honor Flight’s Aaron Van Beek

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

WASHINGTON — Midwest Honor Flight President and Director Aaron Van Beek is quite the exceptional young man.

He grew up in Northwestern Iowa, comes from a family with a strong military background, attended what is now Dordt University and became a teacher. During his junior year of college, he made a major life decision.

“I heard about Honor Flight and loved the idea of it…wanted to go…and then [I] learned that you could actually start one,” Van Beek says. “Then [I] learned that there hadn’t been one in South Dakota since 2012, and it wasn’t open to Korea and Vietnam veterans; they took World War II veterans. And then there was one in Northwest Iowa that did the same thing and it was no longer active and [the same in] Southwest Minnesota…and so crazy 20-year-old Aaron decided that this is what I want to do and I want to start an Honor Flight.”

Van Beek lives in Sioux Center, Iowa, and with the overwhelming success of Midwest Honor Flight, recently left his teaching job to serve as their CEO full time.

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Midwest Honor Flight President/Director Aaron Van Beek welcomes each veteran home as they leave Sioux Falls Airport.

Midwest Honor Flight is really a family affair, with Aaron’s mom, Chris, serving as the lead medic for the organization.

“He came home from Christmas break and he said, ‘what do you think about bringing Honor Flight to our area?’ and I just looked at him and thought, ‘this kid is gonna do it regardless.’ So I thought, you know, I might as well jump on and volunteer and honestly, it’s been the best volunteer opportunity I’ve ever been involved with,” Chris Van Beek says.

With the success of Mission 10, more than 900 veterans from South Dakota, Southwest Minnesota and Northwest Iowa have traveled to D.C. free-of-charge.

“I thought, okay, one or two flights — perfect, we’ll be good; we could get some vets out to D.C. and then go move to Denver or Phoenix or something like that and go teach there,” Van Beek says. “Obviously things changed and the popularity of what Honor Flight is continues to grow even to this day. We’re much bigger than what I ever expected — never did I ever think we’d get to 10 missions this quickly in five years.”

Van Beek is hands-on during Honor Flight missions, greeting each veteran and taking care of them along the way. He says every veteran has a story, and sharing this emotional experience with them has been incredibly rewarding.

Van Beek has undoubtedly touched the lives of every veteran and their families on Honor Flight — a grateful American showing us it’s never too late, or too early, to make a difference.

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