ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

For the first time, the majority of travelers on the next local Honor Flight will be Vietnam veterans

During the first WDAY Honor Flight, many World War II veterans were escorted to Washington, D.C., by their Vietnam veteran sons. Now it's time for those sons and others who served during the Vietnam era to get the thanks they deserve.

hf lyle anderson and friends on bench.JPG
World War II veterans rest at the WWII Memorial in Washington, D.C., in May 2007, when the WDAY Honor Flight took its first trip to thank veterans for their service. Now, in the fall of 2022, the Veterans Honor Flight of ND/MN will, for the first time, take a trip where the majority of the participating veterans served during the Vietnam era.
Tracy Briggs / The Forum
We are part of The Trust Project.

FARGO — When I was a little girl growing up in south Fargo in the early 1970s, there were two cute boys who lived across the street from us. Twins. One wore blue; the other green. They were part of the neighborhood gang like the rest of us. But something was different. My mom warned us to be careful what we said to them.

“Don’t ask about their father,” she said.

I don’t remember being curious enough back then to ask why until years later, when my mom told me that she believed the boys’ dad was either a prisoner of war or missing in action in Vietnam.

When I was a child, I’m not sure I would have understood what she meant. I just knew Vietnam was something I might hear Walter Cronkite talk about on the news, but most of the time it was uncomfortable to talk about in our little neighborhood.

And it was elsewhere, too.

ADVERTISEMENT

American soldiers returning home from Vietnam often faced scorn as the war they had fought in became increasingly unpopular and deemed by some as "unwinnable." The war claimed the lives of more than 58,000 American service members and wounded another 150,000. But even those who came home in one piece were met with trauma — some were spit upon, yelled at or called "baby killers."

Given the hardships many Vietnam veterans went through during and after the war, I’m all the more happy for something happening this month.

The local Honor Flight program in eastern North Dakota — a program that started by taking World War II veterans, then Korean War veterans, to Washington, D.C. — has turned a page.

Starting with the next flight on Sunday, Sept. 11, the majority of veterans now going on Honor Flights from here are those who served during the Vietnam era — a long overdue nod to a generation that hasn’t been thanked enough, but who, in my experience, has worked harder than anyone to make sure others have gotten their due. Let me explain.

Other stories from past Honor Flights
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Former Secretary of State Colin Powell was attending a meeting of African-American military leaders Sunday night at the Hyatt Crystal Park hotel. It just so happened to be the same hotel in which the WDAY Honor Flight 2016 was...

Honor Flight came to North Dakota in 2007, when WDAY and Forum Communications sponsored the first few trips taking WWII veterans to D.C. It was one of the unique pleasures of my life to be part of the committee. And I noticed something as we met in the third-floor boardroom of WDAY: about one-third of our original committee members were Vietnam veterans.

Some worked as veteran service officers or for military organizations, others were just private citizens, but all of them worked harder than anyone to make sure their WWII brothers and sisters got the recognition they deserved by taking the trip.

hf rices seurers.JPG
Many early Honor Flight committee members, including Dave Rice (second from left) and Greg Seurer (second from right), were Vietnam veterans. Also pictured during the flight, Donna Sheldon (left) and Deb Seurer.
Tracy Briggs / The Forum

I remember asking one of them why they were so committed to the project.

He told me just because his generation wasn't always treated well when they came home didn’t mean we shouldn’t do everything possible for another generation to get the thanks they still deserved.

ADVERTISEMENT

That stuck with me. The Vietnam veterans had been through so much, but many felt it was their job to make sure their WWII fathers still got their pats on the back.

Fast forward to 2015, and the Honor Flight started taking Korean War veterans on the trip, who also deserved thanks and appreciation. Those trips have continued ever since (with a brief stoppage during the pandemic).

In 2017, the WDAY Honor Flight changed its name to Veterans Honor Flight of ND/MN to reflect that the local organization is run by private volunteers and not Forum Communications/WDAY employees. But Forum Communications still supports and appreciates the organization’s efforts and values our role in kicking it all off in 2007.

Horizon Middle School student Sophia Schuetz visits with Korean War Veteran Glenn Mauer in Washington, D.C., on Monday, while seventh-grader Thalia Christenson, in back, talks with another Honor Flight Veterans at the World War II M Memorial. Wendy Reuer / The Forum
Horizon Middle School student Sophia Schuetz visits with Korean War veteran Glenn Mauer in Washington, D.C., while seventh-grader Thalia Christenson, in back, talks with another 2016 Honor Flight veteran at the World War II Memorial.
Forum file photo

Now, I’m lucky enough to get to go on the trip again. This time not as a bus captain or board member, but a newspaper reporter. I’ll be bringing you the stories of the local veterans going on the trip from Sept. 11-13 flying out of Grand Forks. (There is another flight leaving from Fargo in October).

I’m not sure what the stories will entail. But I hope to show the Vietnam veterans seeing the sites of Washington, including the memorials and monuments built for them.

Watch for the stories on InForum.com.

As I’ve started the research for these stories, my neighbor boys have certainly crossed my mind. We ended up moving from the neighborhood before the war even ended and I never found out what happened to those boys or their father. Did he make it home alive? Is he still listed as missing in action or as a POW ? Since I don't recall the boys' last names, I'm not sure if I'll ever know.

But what I do know now is, unlike all those years ago, I plan to talk about Vietnam.

ADVERTISEMENT

Tracy Briggs Back Then with Tracy Briggs online column sig.jpg
Tracy Briggs, "Back Then with Tracy Briggs" columnist.
The Forum

Tracy Briggs is a News, Lifestyle and History reporter with Forum Communications with more than 30 years of experience, in broadcast, print and digital journalism.
What to read next
The labor intensive nature of the work, the length of time it takes for an evergreen tree in North Dakota to grow to a saleable height, and the competition from “big box” stores are deterrents to raising Christmas trees, said Tom Claeys, North Dakota state forester.
Ann Bailey explains why she's thankful for agriculture in professional and personal life.
Seeing Edie's excitement over her upcoming birthday party caused columnist Jessie Veeder to remember a few big events of her own.
Read on as Don Kinzler explains how pine trees shed needles, the benefits of clover lawns and preventing powdery mildew.