Honor Flight for Seven Carroll County Veterans Beats Gov’t ‘Shut-down’
90 Veterans and 72 guardians had the opportunity to travel to Washington D.C. aboard the “Honor Flight” on October 3rd. Among them were seven Carroll County Veterans. (L to R) James Rose (Mount Carroll), Richard Kehl (Mount Carroll), Earl Gilliland (Mount Carroll), Edward Fehlhafer( Lanark), Kenneth Schneider (Mount Carroll), Daniel Frankfother (Milledgeville), and Robert Helms (Chadwick). (PA photo/L. Forth)
By LYNNETTE FORTH | For The Prairie Advocate News
In spite of the Government shut-down, the Honor Flight of the Quad Cities was able to provide 90 Veterans (World War 2 as well as Korean) the chance of a lifetime, with seven of them being from Carroll County.
In the very early morning hours of October 3, 2013, Lanark native Ed Fehlhafer left from the Latin American Social Club in Sterling on a bus headed to the Moline International Airport for his trip to Washington D.C.
“A group of us left Sterling at 4:15 a.m.,” Fehlhafer said. “When we arrived at the airport, we were already pre-screened, so it was just great. We had to wait for our plane to arrive from Wisconsin, but it hit an owl when landing at Moline, causing a three hour delay.”
Fehlhafer commented that before boarding the plane, they had “mail call.” People from all over had written letters and sent them in so that each Veteran on board received mail.
“When you were in the military, everyone wanted to receive a letter at mail call. I had thirty of my own that day.”
Veterans aboard the flight arrived in Washington at approximately noon D.C. time. Volunteer guardians accompanied the Veterans to provide assistance with anything from pushing a wheelchair, to opening a bottle of water. As long as the Veteran is able to walk, they are accompanied by one guardian for every two Veterans; if they are unable to walk on their own, then one guardian is assigned to the Veteran to assist in anything they may need.
“They are there to help in any way possible, to make the trip as easy and as rewarding as possible,” Fehlhafer added.
The group had a lengthy itinerary planned for the day, but due to the government shut-down, and the flight delay, they were not able to visit the Air Force Museum. But they did get the chance to see some things that were not originally scheduled.
“We got to go to the Pentagon and see where the plane actually hit on September 11th, 2001,” Fehlhafer reported. “There was a memorial for the folks that lost their lives. We also got to see the Fort Meyers Barracks in D.C., which we were fortunate to be able to view.”
The group also visited the World War 2 Memorial, which was closed, but five Senators were waiting at the gates to let them in. The same thing took place at the Korean War Memorial, where two members from the House of Representatives were present to open those gates as well.
Veterans were able to take a quick look at the Iwo Jima Memorial, but were running late, and did not get to the Air Force Museum due to the shortage of time. Fehlhafer reported that they were served hot meals donated by Arby’s throughout the day, which made the trip even more enjoyable.
On Capitol Hill that day, an event took place which involved gun shots being fired, and the group with the Honor Flight was only two blocks away.
“We didn’t know a thing about it. We didn’t even know what was going on at the Capitol,” Fehlhafer said.
Speaking about the day’s events, Fehlhafer stated “My favorite part was just being there, and having the honor to participate. If you are a Veteran, and think that you can’t go, because you can’t walk, the guardians will take care of all of your needs. A person in a wheelchair doesn’t miss a thing. It is a long day, but is so worth it. A Veteran needs to go. I highly recommend it. It is very interesting and wonderful.”
Arriving back in Moline at 11:00 p.m. that evening, the group was greeted by over 500 people waiting to welcome them back, and extend their thanks. “For people to show up at that time of night from everywhere . . . you talk about a tear jerking moment, that was it,” Fehlhafer said.
The Honor Flight of the Quad Cities relies on help from donations to make trips like this one possible. All Veterans are able to travel at no cost to them. The bus ride from Rock Falls was donated by Wiersema Charter Service of Morrison.
“Every little bit helps to make the trips possible,” Fehlhafer commented. For more information on donating, volunteering, or to obtain an application for a Veteran, or to be a guardian, visit www.honorflightqc.org.
“To the Veterans, I would say, there is no way you can’t handle it,” Fehlhafer stated.