Iola man enjoys Honor Flight
Mortenson served in Vietnam
By Holly Neumann
Dave Mortenson participated in the 54th mission of the Old Glory Honor Flight that took off from Appleton International Airport Aug. 31.
“This was the opportunity of a lifetime,” the Iola resident said. “It took me a long time to decide if I even wanted to go. I had heard so many good things about it. I wanted to give it a try.”
Mortenson enlisted in the U.S. Army the day after his 17th birthday and served for six years and three days that included a one-year tour in Vietnam.
Although he did not want to talk about his experiences in Vietnam, Mortenson said his trip to Washington, D.C., was unbelievably emotional.
“I had never been there before, but this was not about me,” he said. “It was about the 58,409 that did not make it home. It was a very good experience and very enlightening.”
Arlington National Cemetery made a huge impact on Mortenson.
“It is truly unbelievable,” he said. “There are over 400,000 veterans there. They sometimes have over 30 funerals a day. The men and women there sacrificed it all for the love of our country.”
The Vietnam Memorial was the most meaningful.
“It brought back a lot of bad memories, but is also helped ease some of the pain,” Mortenson said.
One of the highlights of the trip came on the flight home.
“Mail call was something that the troops looked forward to while they were in the service,” said Mortenson’s wife, Goldie. “When I received a call from Diane McDonald to try to get people to write letters to Dave for on the way home, I was happy to help. With the help of family and friends, I was able to get 71 letters.”
“It was amazing,” Mortenson said. “It was a huge surprise for me and it took me over an hour to read them all.”
The festivities continued after the plane returned to Appleton.
“We had to wait behind a black curtain for everyone to get off the plane,” Mortenson said. “People from the news were coming behind to get stories and once we were all ready, we walked out and people filled the corridor to welcome us home. It was overwhelming and a completely different experience from when I came home from Vietnam.”
“He still does not like to talk about Vietnam,” Goldie Mortenson said. “This trip has made a world of difference for him. He thinks differently now.”
Mortenson recommends that anyone eligible to go on the Old Glory Honor Flight take advantage of the opportunity.
“Even if you served stateside without the war experience, you still served,” he said.
Mortenson said he would never change the decision he made to enter the military.
“Overall, it was a good experience,” he said. “Now, I feel like I have gotten some acknowledgement for what I have done. God bless America.”