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Cherokee County veterans make Washington pilgrimage

Monday, June 15, 2009

What does the number 180,100 mean to the World War II veterans from Cherokee County?

It means that the veterans were part of that number of World War II veterans who have gone on the Honor Flights from across America since the program began in 2005. They were on the Honor Flight that flew out of Sioux City on June 2 , 2009, to go to the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.. On the flight were 108 veterans and 60 guardians, many from the Cherokee County area.

Local veterans who went on the Honor flight from Cherokee area were: Cherokee - Cecil Akin, Thomas Boothby Jr., Paul Cedar, LeRoy "Herb" Ford, Ralph Johnson, Wilbur Sealman, Robert Van Natta; Marcus - Leland Hogue, John Leavitt, Roger Leavitt, Carl Mayer, Kenneth McGrew, Ralph Sutton; Washta - Berle Keck; Aurelia - Milo Noble; Quimby - William Walsh; Cleghorn - Robert Becker, George Dobson, Francis Smith; Holstein - Ray Ellerbusch, Lee Marsh, Ervin Stamp, Wilbert Vohs.

(Photo)
The participants in the Siouxland Honor Flight group of June 2, 2009 pose at the WWII Memorial in Washington, D.C. Photo submitted.
The veterans' adventure started months ago, when they applied to go on the flight. On May 31, the event started with a 'meet and greet' at the South Sioux City Marina. There they met the guardians who would go with them to D.C. After meeting each other, the veterans were entertained by the group of World War II musicians called the Avi8tors, from Omaha, Neb. They sang many popular songs from the 40's.

The next time the veterans met was at the Sioux City Airport to go on the Honor Flight. Check-in time was 4:30 a.m., and the plane took off to Washington at 7:30 a.m. The veterans and guardians were ready for an exciting day in D.C. They landed at 9:30 a.m. and got onto three buses that took them to the World War II Memorial.

They spent 2+ hours there, looking at it, and remembering their fallen brothers. One of the veterans brought along a flag that was for his father, who was to be on the flight, but died recently .

Former U.S. Senator Bob Dole, who helped to bring the Memorial to life, Iowa U. S. Senator Chuck Grassley, and U.S. Congressman Steve King were present to talk to the veterans, and to get photos with them also.

Newscasters from Sioux City television stations KTIV , KCAU and KMEG came along on the flight, and they interviewed many of the veterans about what they saw and did in the war. Cecil Akin and Wilbur Sealman of Cherokee were both interviewed by Matt Breen of KTIV, and their interviews were later shown on the station's nightly news broadcast.

Construction of The World War II Memorial began in September, 2001 and it was dedicated on May 29, 2004. The memorial is placed between the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial to reflect the impact of World War II preserving and internationalizing the democratic ideals won under George Washington and defended under Abraham Lincoln.

This memorial continues America's story of striving for freedom and individual rights. The 4,000 gold stars on the Memorial's Freedom Wall commemorate the more than 400,000 Americans who gave their lives. Twin Atlantic and Pacific pavilions symbolize a war fought across two oceans. On the pillars on the sides of the memorial is a roll call of the nation: The 56 U.S. states, territories, and District of Columbia that united in a common cause are inscribed on these pillars.

From the World War II Memorial, the veteran group went for a trip around Washington by bus. They saw the Capital Building and the White House, along with other important sites in D.C.

Next stop was the Air Force Memorial. The Memorial was dedicated on Oct. 14, 2006. It honors the service and sacrifices of the men and women of the United States Air Force and back to the Army Air Service, Air Corps and U.S. Army Air Force. More than 54,000 Airmen have died in combat while serving in the Air Force, the second highest of any of America's five armed services. The spires, which soar skyward with the highest reaching 270' above the 3-acre, elevated promontory site. The site looks across the road from the Pentagon. You can see the different color of the granite, which is because of the plane that crashed into the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001. From the Air Force Memorial, the group went to Arlington National Cemetery and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

On arriving at the Arlington National Cemetery and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, they watched the changing of the guard. After that, they met with a guard of the Tomb. The soldier was on the burial detail at the Cemetery for two years before joining the Tomb Guard. He told the group about their training , the length of time they stand guard. A normal walking guard duty is 30 minutes , and at night, it lasts two hours. The rifles and bayonets they carry are hand-made by each soldier. They are married men and women soldiers have also guarded the Tomb .

During their time at the Arlington Cemetery , the veterans also visited the graves of Audie Murphy and the Challenger and Columbia Space Shuttle astronauts.

Unknown soldiers were picked for the WW I, WW II and Korean Wars. Each war had four unknown soldiers picked and placed in identical caskets and one was picked by an enlisted soldier, by placing a white rose on the casket. The other three were taken to a grave that no one knows about and placed together in one casket. The highest decorated soldier from World War I is the soldier in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the highest decorated soldier from World War II is Audie Murphy.

From Arlington, the group were to go the Iwo Jima Memorial, but they had a high-ranking affair there at the time for the Marines and Navy, so they had to drive around it and instead went to the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial. This is where they met many school students from across the nation. The veterans talked to a school for girls from New York City, and high school kids from Kansas. The really interesting group of Junior High kids was from Schaller-Crestland School in Early. The students were on a trip to Washington D.C. The kids all asked questions on what they did during the war. Cecil Akin and Paul Cedar from Cherokee talked to them, along with other veterans.

After a long day, the group of World War veterans and guardians came home to Iowa with many pictures and memories of the day-long trip to see their memorial.

Cherokee Veteran Affairs Director Dana Evans said of the trip,"It was an honor to go along with them, and hear their stories and see their smiles of friendship with their buddies of 60 plus years. There are a lot more World War veterans from Cherokee County who would like to go on the next Honor Flight that will go out of Sioux City."

Veterans wishing to go on the next flight are asked to please get their applications in to the national organization in Springfield, Ohio. To get an application for the next Honor flight, stop at the Cherokee Veterans Affairs office at 228 1/2 West Main St., or at your local bank , or go on-line to honorflight.org. Donations will be accepted at the Cherokee State Bank in Cherokee for the next flight.

The Cherokee County Veterans Affairs Office will present a slideshow of the trip at The Gathering Place in Cherokee at a later date. Many of the veterans who went on this trip will be there as special guests.

For more photos of the trip, see the Photo Gallery entitled "Honor Flight Trip."



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