Super sendoff, ‘awesome’ arrivalWWII veterans get the red carpet as they arrive in Washington
By: Amy Dalrymple, The Dickinson Press
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Clarence Olson probably said “awesome” 100 times on Friday.
The World War II veteran from Grand Forks was wowed by the fanfare the 124 veterans received as they left Bismarck and arrived in Washington, D.C., to see the memorial built in their honor.
“It’s just unreal,” said Olson, a Navy veteran participating in the Rough Rider Honor Flight. “I even talked to the governor.”
The group left Bismarck with an airport sendoff from the Patriot Guard, Honor Guard, Gov. Jack Dalrymple and other supporters.
While on the plane, veterans had “mail call” and received handwritten letters from North Dakota students.
As they arrived hours later at Dulles Airport, fire trucks shot water over the plane.
Members of the Honor Flight Ground Crew cheered and waved flags as the veterans arrived, greeting each one on the tarmac.
“I liked it when the girls kissed me and hugged me when I got off the plane,” said Jim Dixon, an Army Air Corps veteran from Fargo.
Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., waited on the tarmac to shake the veterans’ hands.
“This is the red carpet,” said Tom Knapp of Lisbon.
But Knapp, like many of the veterans, was reluctant to receive such recognition.
“I think of the people who didn’t return. I’m thinking of people who are buried in cemeteries. I’m thinking of people who are maimed and crippled,” Knapp said. “Those are the people we should be honoring.”
Lorraine Schroeder, a veteran of the Navy WAVES, also was humbled by the sendoff.
“It made me cry,” said Schroeder, of Carrington, “It’s more than I deserve.”
Virginia Kraushaar of Fargo’s Veterans Affairs Medical Center, one of the medical personnel on the trip, said that attitude is typical of World War II veterans.
“They’re very uncomfortable being called heroes,” Kraushaar said.
The veterans toured the Vietnam, Korean and Lincoln memorials on Friday.
They also were honored with a banquet, which had an empty place setting in honor of the missing.
Today they will visit the World War II memorial, as well as the Iwo Jima Memorial and Arlington National Cemetery before returning to Bismarck.
Kevin Cramer, chairman of the Rough Rider Honor Flight, said he’s always struck by the veterans’ humility during the trip.
“Yet it all seems so inadequate to us,” Cramer said.