Veteran heads to D.C.
Old Glory Honor Flight hosts 50th trip
By Holly Neumann
Dave Kuehl of Symco will be one of 98 veterans taking part in the 50th mission of the Old Glory Honor Flight that departs from Appleton on Wednesday, May 29.
Two years after graduating from Clintonville High School, Kuehl was drafted into the United States Army in 1965 and served stateside during the Vietnam War.
“It was a little scary getting drafted,” said Kuehl. “This was my first time away from home. But they wanted us big farm boys.”
After completing basic training at Fort Knox in Kentucky, he was sent to Fort Eustis in Virginia, where he became a senior seaman who served on tug boats and amphibious landing crafts.
“This was the Army, but they shipped me out on a tug boat in Chesapeake Bay,” he said. “We took carriers up and down the water ways that we patrolled. I really liked being there.”
Kuehl recalled one of the most difficult days was seeing one of the boats sink, taking three service members with it.
“We saw the rescue attempts,” he said. “But there was not much they could do.”
He was later ordered back to Fort Knox, where he escorted generals and other high ranking officers on tours around the base.
Anticipating Honor Flight
Now 54 years after his service began, Kuehl is looking forward to seeing Washington, D.C.
“This is quite the honor, and I cannot believe I get to go,” he said. “I figured everyone else should go ahead of me. It is going to be awesome.”
He is most looking forward to the Changing of the Guard at Arlington National Cemetery.
“There were a lot of lives lost over there,” he said. “I am sure it will be emotional for me.”
Kuehl said he lost friends in Vietnam.
“I had a good buddy from West Virginia that died over there,” he said. “I sent him a letter, and I never heard back. Back then, they did not tell you what happened. That was hard. But I cannot imagine what it was like serving there and seeing people dying on the ground next to you. The lucky ones that did get to come home were never the same.”
When veterans returned, many were not treated well. Some opted out of applying for benefits following the war as they did not want people to know they served.
“You never wore your uniform out anywhere,” he said. “People would throw stuff at you if they knew you served.”
Even with that, Kuehl remains patriotic and is involved with veteran organizations.
The Old Glory Honor Flights is in its 10th year of taking veterans to the nation’s capital.
Not just a trip, a mission
“This is so important because the veterans deserve their tour of honor,” said Lorraine Van Kampen, vice president and flight coordinator for the Honor Flight. “They get to visit the memorials in Washington, D.C. that were built in their honor, and we need to be able to take them there. Hopefully to give them time to reflect and find some resolve from the issues that they have had from serving in the military during war time.”
Van Kampen said there are many moving stories that come from honor flights.
“With Vietnam vets, they get to Washington, D.C. and get to the Vietnam Wall area and they literally cannot go to that wall,” she said. “They cannot face it. To them, it is not names. It is faces of their brothers that they lost over there.”
Van Kampen encourages everyone to be a part of the welcome home reception.
“This day is emotional and it is rewarding. If you have never been to a welcome home reception for an honor flight, please come out,” she said. “Many were not welcomed home. Be there this time to give them the reception that they deserve.”
Those who want to attend may go to the Appleton International Airport on May 29. Guests are encouraged to begin arriving by 7:30 p.m. The anticipated arrival time for the flight is 8:30 p.m.
On this mission, two veterans from World War II, 30 from the Korean War and 66 from the Vietnam War will be traveling.
All flights are paid for through donations. Each mission costs approximately $80,000 per flight.
To donate, visit www.oldgloryhonorflight.org or mail checks to Old Glory, P.O. Box 482, Menasha, WI 54952.