Quad Cities, IL/IA

Working with the community... for a healthier community.

Honor Flight of the Quad Cities


Submitted by Ridgecrest Village

Honor Flight of the Quad Cities for WWII veterans, terminally-ill veterans, and Korean War veterans, had an unusual trip last fall. First the National Parks were closed including the WWII Memorial, Korean War Memorial, Vietnam Memorial, Women’s Memorial, and Iwo Jima Memorial. The government shutdown and a shooting in Washington, D.C. weren’t the only things that kept this trip unique for our veterans: an owl created a “fowl” start!

The day started well with 162 people ready to travel to their Honor Flight by 6 a.m. The Quad City International Airport has the process down to an organized effort to get 92 veterans and 70 guardians through security; pictures of each from Walgreens; belt packs and cameras for the veterans; and donuts, juice, and coffee from the Salvation Army for all. The plan was to take off at 7 a.m.

As the Sun Country 737 plane landed on the runway, an owl flew into one of the two jet engines. What to do? First they located another plane in Houston, Texas and began the process to find a crew and fly to Moline. This new plane would not arrive until at least 11:30 a.m. Cathie Rochau was helpful and distributed water donated by QC Airport to everyone.

Second, a mechanic was brought in from Carver Air to inspect the damage on the Sun Country 737. Pictures were sent to their home office for evaluation. Sending a mechanic with better diagnostic equipment from Minneapolis would take too long and another engine would take even longer. If that happened, then we would have to reschedule.

The co-pilot came in to apologize to the veterans for the delay, and then she shook everyone’s hand with a personal apology. Meanwhile the crew on the plane started heating up breakfast in case they needed to eat in the airport.

A team of engineers at Sun Country used the pictures to put together a plan to fix the engine. The plan was faxed to the airport and the mechanic was brought back to help. Eventually the plane pulled away from the terminal so the engine could be tested. It worked, and the plane took off three hours after our scheduled start.

The Dulles volunteer welcoming crew and all three motor coaches waited for us to arrive. Fortunately, four U.S. representatives and two U.S. senators allowed us to get through the WWII barriers and a dozen Tea Party volunteers helped with pictures and welcoming. Senator Chuck Grassley, and Congressmen Steve King, Bruce Braley, and Dave Loebsack from Iowa were there. Senator Mark Kirk and Representative Cheri Bustos were there from Illinois.

Even though there was a car chase that ended in a shooting that day in Washington D.C., the group was not affected. Korean War veteran Glenn Miller of Spring Valley said they didn’t even know about it until they got back on the plane.

Congressmen Braley and King moved the barriers at the Korean Memorial for our busses to arrive. Fifteen citizens from South Korea were there to greet our veterans. They showed appreciation with bows and thanks for our veteran’s effort in keeping that country free. Robert Ashley of Tonica said he thought people forgot about the Korean War but this proved otherwise.     A terminally-ill Vietnam veteran was wheeled by his guardian to see the Vietnam wall. This was a highlight of the trip.

Next, the guards at Tomb of the Unknown Soldier were an impressive display of precision. The click of their heel has the reputation of being the loudest in the world. The leader honored our vets by clicking his heel one time on his way in.

For the first time, they visited the 9/11 Memorial at the Pentagon. Each bench had an inscribed name of a murdered civilian or soldier and beautiful flowing water underneath. Fifteen uniformed soldiers welcomed our veterans with the tour. From there they visited the Air Force Memorial, a trip through Fort Myer Army Base, and a highway drive around the Iwo Jima Memorial.

Back at the airport while waiting for the Sun Country crew to return, our veterans received letters from school kids and relatives. This mail call reminded them of receiving letters from home when they were in the field.

As they came off the plane in the Quad Cities, they received “Sargent Camo” Whitey’s Ice Cream. They found a welcome home group of over three hundred as they made their way through the airport.

Despite some setbacks, the participants enjoyed the visit. Thomas Burke of Princeton said, “The people who run the honor flight program were just super. Everything was excellent. I wish our government ran the same way.”

“It’s something that I will never forget as long as I live,” Ashley said, “It was a memorable occasion.”

Hub Director Morrison said from Ridgecrest Village, “Anybody who is a vet from WWII or Korean War, whether they served in combat or not, it’s important for them to be involved. The trip is a well-deserved experience!”

To learn more about a lifestyle of fulfillment at Ridgecrest Village or to schedule a complimentary luncheon and tour, contact Bob, Mary, or Diane at 563-391-3430.

Photo credit: Thinkstock Images