From enemy attack to heart attack, veteran survives harrowing encounters

Published: Sep. 12, 2022 at 7:59 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 12, 2022 at 9:52 PM CDT
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WASHINGTON, D.C. (Valley News Live) - Arlington National Cemetery and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier makes you reflect on how short life can be.

“All the guys are fighting cancer from agent orange and all these other things,” veteran Dan Higgins says. “We’re getting to the age where you’re dropping like flies.”

That’s especially true for veteran Dan Higgins and his son Randy from Rock Lake, ND. Dan didn’t know if he’d make it to this day.

During a battle in the country of Laos on March 20, 1971, Dan’s helicopter was hit by enemy fire.

“There were AK’s coming from everywhere,” Dan recalls. He says instinct just kicked in. “I was 20 years old at the time and trying to survive, doing what you had to do as quick as you had to do it to survive.”

Dan thankfully survived that harrowing day and even continued to serve despite the mental wounds.

“It scares you,” Dan admits. “You know, it’s hard to explain exactly what adrenaline and thoughts go through your head at the time.”

Now on this Honor Flight trip, son Randy understands how his life could have been so different.

“It’s eye-opening,” Randy says. “Especially for the age those guys were when they were in Vietnam. Just to know how close he was to getting captured. I wouldn’t be here today if he didn’t do what he did out of bravery and saved other people.”

However, Laos wasn’t Dan’s only battle. 48 years later, on the exact same day of March 20, 2019, Dan’s health would become the new fight.

“I had what they call the ‘widow-maker,’” Dan says. “Everything was blocked up.”

He underwent a successful triple bypass heart operation, and now his mantra of doing ‘what needs to be done’ is still serving him all the years after he served our nation.

“I was pretty lucky we got out alive.”

Dan and the other 111 veterans on the Honor Flight are thankful for the opportunity to see the memorial in the nation’s capitol and it couldn’t be done without your generous support.

If you’d like to make a donation to help veterans from the Red River Valley go to DC on the Honor Flight, click here.