Honor Flight of North Dakota/Minnesota wraps up final day in D.C.

Published: Sep. 13, 2022 at 3:32 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 13, 2022 at 10:08 PM CDT
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WASHINGTON, D.C. (Valley News Live) - The 112 veterans on the North Dakota and Minnesota Honor Flight had an exciting final day in the nation’s capitol.

On the morning of Tuesday, Sept. , the veterans visited memorial on the National Mall, starting with the World War II memorial. All veterans gathered in front of the fountains for a group photo, prompting sight-seers to stop and thank the veterans for their service.

For one veteran from East Grand Forks, MN, it was an extra special visit. He brought along a black and white photo of his father when he was in the service during WWII.

“I mean in my heart I think he’s still here,” Joe Ahmen says as he holds onto the photo of his father in uniform. “I truly do. He’s just one of the guys that you have to talk to. He was so quiet sometimes, but now he’s here in my heart.”

Hearts were full and heavy as the group then made their way to the Lincoln Memorial and the Vietnam memorial. Most of the veterans on this flight served during that war, and not all of them served by choice.

During their visit to the Vietnam War memorial, many got out pencils and paper and etched the names of loved ones lost in the war.

Veteran Bob Valley, who grew up around Crookston, MN, says it’s just a physical reminder of the bond he shared with a childhood friend, Duane Normandin, who died in service.

“I remember riding bicycles together, riding horses together, fishing together, playing ball together, going to school together, church, going to the catholic church,” Bob recalls. “I knew him right up until the end.” The beginning of tears started to form in his eyes as he looked back on the memories with his friends.

Mental health professionals were helping veterans during the flight, in case of the veterans wanted to talk to professionals about their experience during the war or their hard return home.

For the lone woman on the flight, the Vietnam Memorial wall was also an emotional experience. She says looking at all the names brings back some tough memories.

“[I have] very sad feelings right now,” Gloria Nerby says with tears in her eyes. “I don’t know, it’s really, really sad. All these names on here...” she trails off as she looks at the wall.

The Vietnam memorial honors the more than 58,000 thousand American service-members who died during the Vietnam war, according to the National Archives.

Whether at the Vietnam memorial, WWII memorial or at random times during the trip, strangers would often thank the veterans for their service. At one point, Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND) met the veterans outside the Lincoln Monument to shake their hands and personally thank them for their service.

Congressman Kelly Armstrong (R-ND) met with the group one night during the trip at the banquet and thanked the veterans during his time there.

After a bustling three-day, two-night trip, the veterans were shuttled back to Baltimore for their flight back to Grand Forks, ND.

Hopefully stories of war can now be accompanied by stories of their trip with new-found friends on the Honor Flight of North Dakota and Minnesota.