Quite an honor


Dave Arduser, a Vietnam veteran, poses in front of the Vietnam Wall in Washington, D.C. during a recent Honor Flight trip. (Photos submitted)

Accompanying Dave on the D.C. Honor Flight was his son, Jason. Taking in the Marine Corps Memorial was special for both father and son, as Dave served in the Corps.

This is the group of family and friends who welcomed Dave Arduser back home on Sept. 17 after his Honor Flight trip to D.C. Dave finally got the welcome-home ceremony he deserved.
Arduser takes part in Honor Flight
By: 
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

“We were not treated like heroes are treated today.” 

Those words were spoken by Dave Arduser of Monticello in a Nov. 10, 2010 interview with the Monticello Express to honor Veterans Day. 

Dave served in Vietnam in the Marine Corps. He joined the service after high school in 1965. Fifty-plus years after his service, Dave took part in the Eastern Iowa Honor Flight on Sept. 17. Accompanying him as his guardian on the flight was his son, Jason. 

After the treatment the Vietnam veterans received upon their return trip home, Dave received a well-deserved welcome-home ceremony the minute he got off the plane at the Eastern Iowa airport. Dozens and dozens of family and friends were there to greet him and thank him for his years of service. 

It was actually Jason and Kellie Arduser, also of Monticello, who submitted the Honor Flight application in February for their father and father-in-law. Jason said he wanted his dad to go on the trip, knowing of his health concerns. 

“Last year we were unsure about where the future was headed,” he said of Dave’s recent health issues. “So we wanted to get him signed up.” 

It wasn’t until July that Dave found out he was selected to go. He had the option of going to Washington, D.C. in either September or October. He chose September, hoping the weather would still hold out. 

Dave said it was important that his son accompany him on the Honor Flight so they could share in the experience together. Jason was also the guardian for another Vietnam veteran on the flight. 

“It was important for me to honor my father that day,” Jason said of taking part in the trip. “I wanted to be a part of that. It was amazing to experience the whole thing with those veterans.” 

“It made it a lot more memorable,” added Dave. 

Dave was actually stationed in Virginia from 1967-68 during his time in the service. However, the U.S. capital definitely looks a lot different today. 

“I never saw the sites and memorials,” Dave recalled. “They were all new to me.” 

This was Jason’s first time visiting D.C., and plans to take his entire family soon. 

The flight was full of Vietnam veterans and their guardians, as well as one WWII veteran and some Korean vets. 

While Dave was the only local veteran on the flight, he does have a connection to the Eastern Iowa Honor Flight president, Dick Bell. Bell’s wife, Pat, is a former Monticello teacher. 

Once they got off the plane in D.C., Dave said it was unreal having complete strangers applaud for them. 

“It was a totally different experience back during Vietnam,” he recalled. “We never got an applause.” 

For Dave, it was important to see the Vietnam Veterans Memorial (The Wall), which contains the names of over 58,000 deceased Vietnam soldiers. While he’s seen the traveling Wall before, the original does not compare. 

“Most of those who died were just kids,” said Dave of the young Vietnam soldiers. “I was only 20. It was something else, though, over there, fighting for our country.” 

Dave’s friend, Mike Hatfield, also tried to enlist at the same time. However, Hatfield was just 17, and you had to be 18 to serve in Vietnam. 

“He ended up serving two tours after he was eligible,” recalled Dave. 

Dave also took in the site of the Marine Corp Memorial. 

“That was really impressive,” he said. 

Seeing Arlington National Cemetery and watching the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was also a highlight for Dave and Jason. 

“It was unbelievable,” recalled Jason. 

The single WWII veteran on the Honor Flight was able to take part in the wreath-laying service at Arlington. The day also happened to be that veteran’s 93rd birthday. 

Dave said taking part in the Honor Flight was a trip of a lifetime. As the veterans boarded the plane to return home, they all received packages of letters written especially for them. Inside Dave’s package were letters and cards from his grandkids’ classes here in Monticello (Kayla and Kyle Arduser). Kellie contacted the schools to see if they would have the kids not only write letters to Dave, but to all of the other veterans on the flight. She secured almost 160 letters that were delivered to other vets on the flight. 

“It was all so memorable and fantastic,” said Dave. 

When they arrived back in Cedar Rapids, Dave was blown away by the reception of thousands of people greeting the veterans by forming a human tunnel. 

“I didn’t expect all that,” he said. “I didn’t expect it at all.” 

Dave’s wife, Connie, said so many were in tears. 

The Arduser family had 38 people waiting for Dave and Jason as they got off the plane. 

“It’s quite an honor, and very impressive,” concluded Dave. “I’d advise any veteran to go.” 

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