Honor Flight a multi-generational 'blessing' for volunteers, veterans
Vietnam veteran who once helped his WWII dad on a 2007 Honor Flight is now joined on his own Honor Flight by his Operation Iraqi Freedom son.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — For Paul and Todd Everson, this Honor Flight trip is as full a circle as the Navy Memorial Plaza in which they now stand. The bronze statue of The Lone Sailor stands guard on one end, while the father and son are a formidable pair on the other.
Both from Minnesota, father Paul, from Greenbush, and son Todd, from Oakdale, are enjoying this moment together with a giant nod to the past.
It was 15 years ago when Paul, a Vietnam veteran, flew with his father, Jeff, a World War II veteran, on his flight.
Jeff served in the Signal Corps in the China, Burma & India Theater during the war, but in 2007, in his late 80s, he needed a little help getting around. Paul reported for duty.
“He did have a wheelchair, but they also had some of these electric scooters. He got to use one of those at the World War II Memorial. Oh, man! Did he think that was fantastic!” Paul said. “He just went cruising around. And with every site, we went to he was in awe.”
What comes around, goes around
Paul said it is a little weird to be on the trip now with his own son, an Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran. His other son, Sean is also an OIF veteran. Paul said he probably didn’t need as much assistance as his father did back in 2007, but then he got to thinking.
“I said, ‘Jeepers, I went with my dad. I'd like to bring my son on,’” Paul said. “So then I turned around, and I said, 'Yeah, I could use a caregiver. It would be nice to have the help.'”
“He called and asked me to go,” Todd remembers. “There was no hesitation. I said, ‘Sure! I’m definitely going.’”
Because Honor Flight provides free trips to veterans based upon their dates of service, WWII, Korean, and Vietnam veterans, like Paul, currently fill the rosters. Veterans from later conflicts, like Todd, are further down the waiting list. But, like any loved one, they can pay a fee to go along as an escort.
Paul said it’s been nice to have Todd, a military veteran in his own right, on Honor Flight with him to share their experiences.
“I think both being in the military, we just understand some of the same things,” Paul said.
However, the family appeal of these trips extends beyond father/son veterans to volunteers who have Honor Flight coursing through their familial DNA.
Ask 'the sisters'
To many on the Honor Flight committee, they are affectionately known as "the sisters" — Lori Ishaug, Diane Moderow and Susie Schroeder.
The logic being if one of them doesn't know the answer to any given question, the others might.
“I think they call us that because Susie and I kind of look a little bit of like, and Diane's more of the headstrong one. She takes after my mom more,” Lori says. “ But, you know, for all of us, it's just a passion.”
The sisters, who grew up in Moorhead, have been serving with Veterans Honor Flight since 2015. This is the 11th trip they’ve helped organize. And this time, they’ve brought in reinforcements — the next generation of sisters — Skyler Muller and Shelby Moderow, Diane’s daughters, who work as volunteers and medical
“They were ingrained in Honor Flight a long time, you know, from the time they were young, and same with my niece, Gracie, who stayed at home,” Lori said.
Four of the five joined the military, following an example set by Lori, Diane and Susie’s father DeLyle Ishaug, a Korean War veteran. This is their first flight since his death this summer, something that has crossed their minds often.
“I'd like to think he’d be proud of us,” Lori said, “I just hope that when Dad got up there, that Mom said to him, ‘Boy, our daughters did a good job.”
Meanwhile, Paul and Todd Everson are thinking about Jeff, who died in 2009. They’re grateful that he had the chance to start what they hope might become a family tradition of sharing Honor Flights together.
"I don't think my grandpa maybe would have made it out here to see this kind of stuff if it wasn't for Honor Flight,” Todd said.
“No, no, no, he wouldn’t have,” Paul added.
“It’s been such a great opportunity for these guys,” Todd said.
Good thing. Because it might not end anytime soon for the Eversons.
"I told him (Todd), he's got a 4-year-old son Griffin. I said, ‘Think about it. I went with my dad. And you came with me. When you get old enough, you take your son Griffin along.'”