Volunteers and the fundamental role they play in Honor Flight missions

This is the final installment of our six-part series on Midwest Honor Flight Mission 10!

WASHINGTON — Volunteers fill an essential role for Midwest Honor Flight, and they serve for personal reasons.

“I remember what it was like for my brother to come home from Vietnam as a war hero. I was 12 or 13 years old,” says Daniel Tracy, medic assist for MHF. “I lived in Chicago. He had a chest full of medals, and when he came home, people were calling him names, spitting at him, yelling…and I didn’t understand. I said to my dad, ‘why are they saying that about Tom?’ and my dad just said, ‘just walk…just walk…’ And it wasn’t until years later that I understood what was going on with that whole thing.”

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Veteran Wilmer Van De Berg of Sioux Center, Iowa, poses with a Midwest Honor Flight medic at the F.D.R. Memorial. Van De Berg served in the Army during Vietnam.

Medics like Tracy help ensure these veterans have a safe and healthy experience.

Chris Van Beek, the lead medic, says, “We all bring different things to the table as far as what our roles are in our civilian life. So we make sure that we can transfer on and off these planes safely and that everybody is well hydrated and they have their medications and that kind of thing.”

Each veteran gets paired with a guardian. Some have family members as guardians, others have volunteers — all share an incredible experience.

Reporter: “Tell me about the bonding that happened between you and your vet?

Lonnie Harshbarger, volunteer guardian: “He was in the Vietnam War; he did a lot of desk work…typing…but once he saw that wall, he just broke down. He gave me a big hug and [said] thank you for being the guardian for me today…it was awesome.”

Many serve mission after mission, coming back to express their thanks to our nation’s veterans.

“We’ve had people come to our house that have said, ‘you know, I’ve been married 40 years and my husband is a totally different person because of Honor Flight,” Tracy says. “For that reason alone, we’ll do them as long as we can afford it and as long as we’re healthy enough.”

Missed any of our stories on Midwest Honor Flight? Check them out here:

One day in D.C.: A quick look at what the veterans of Midwest Honor Flight do on their special day

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

Navy veterans reflect on service, brotherhood during Honor Flight

SEEING DOUBLE: Twin Vietnam veterans share their experience during Honor Flight

Honor Flight gives Vietnam vets the welcome home they deserve


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