Tobiason gets welcome-home he deserves

Glenn Tobiason was part of the Oct. 15 Honor Flight to Washington, D.C. As a Vietnam veteran, it was important for him to pay his respects at the Vietnam Memorial. “The real heroes are on that wall,” he said.

Glenn (right) and his son Kyle stand in front of the Marine Corp/Iwo Jima Memorial while in D.C. as part of the Honor Flight. (Photos submitted)

When Glenn arrived back home at the Cedar Rapids Airport, there were many friends and family there to welcome him home. He said he had more people thanking him for his service that one day than in the last 50 years of his life.
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

The welcome-home celebration held at the Eastern Iowa Airport in Cedar Rapids was quite unlike the welcome Vietnam veteran Glenn Tobiason received when he returned home from his service overseas. 

Tobiason recently took part in one of the last Honor Flights of the season. On Oct. 15, he flew with a plane full of veterans and guardians, including his son Kyle Tobiason, to the nation’s capital to take in the memorials, monuments, and sights. Kyle was also a guardian for another Vietnam veteran from Lisbon. 

It was over two years ago that his son filled out the application for the Honor Flight program. 

“Kyle instigated the whole thing,” said Tobiason. “Most veterans won’t do it themselves.” 

Wanting to keep it a secret from his father, Tobiason later received a postcard in the mail informing him that he was selected to go. 

While Tobiason and his wife, Barb, traveled to Washington, D.C. in the 1980s with Farm Bureau, many of the memorials had yet to be built. 

“The WWII and Korean War memorials were not there,” said Tobiason. “It’s all changed.” 

After they left the plane in D.C., several hundred military personnel in full uniform welcomed them to Washington. 

Taking in the WWII Memorial, Tobiason said it was “absolutely beautiful.” 

This particular flight had one WWII veteran on board, a man who celebrated his 99th birthday that very day. 

Tobiason also visited the Vietnam Wall and the Korean War Memorial, what he refers to as the “Ghost Soliders.” The Korean War Memorial features several soldiers scattered throughout a field on patrol with their platoon, dressed in full combat gear. 

“It was breathtaking,” said Tobiason. 

At the Vietnam Wall, while Tobiason knew a fellow solider whose name appears on the wall, someone he met while at basic training, he simply paid his respects to all who lost their lives in Vietnam. 

“They are the real heroes of the war,” he said with solace. “They didn’t come back alive.” 

Overall, he said the Honor Flight is “quite an experience” because of all the planning that goes into carrying out a one-day trip to D.C. 

Tobiason praised the Honor Flight organization for the great care of the veterans. For instance, at Arlington National Cemetery, their tour bus pulled right into the cemetery so they were steps away from the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider. Tobiason was able to talk to a couple of off-duty guards who explained the training that goes into protecting the tomb 24/7. 

“It’s so precise,” he said. “It’s quite an honor.” 

On the way home, all of the veterans received personalized letters and card as part of the “mail call.” Tobiason said he had 50-plus letters from friends and family. 

“It was very neat,” he said. 

“It’s very affirming,” added Barb. 

Tobiason marveled at the fact that they were able to see so much in just one day, while people take several days to tour D.C. 

“It was fantastic! A lot of good memories!” he said. 

On the flip side, Tobiason said his time in Vietnam brought about some not so good times. 

He served in the Army from 1969-70 with the 101st airborne infantry, having been drafted at the age of 23. At the time, Tobiason was pursuing an agriculture business and education degree from Iowa State University. 

“At the time, the odds were pretty good that we were going to Vietnam,” recalled Tobiason. “I lived a short year in the jungle.” 

Tobiason was part of a search and destroy team. 

“We were out to get people. That was our job.” 

He was a platoon and squad leader, “in charge of the fellas,” communicating with the command center. 

Looking back, Tobiason said it wasn’t as if the U.S. won or lost the war; it just stopped and came to an end. 

“Our leaders said, ‘This was enough,’” he shared. “The protesting was getting really vicious, and there was mass chaos at home.” However, those serving in Vietnam never knew of the protests, because as Tobiason explained, they were sitting in the jungle. 

Upon his return home to civilian life, Tobiason said they were told to simply come home with their heads down. There was no celebration at the airport, no welcome home party. 

Tobiason remembered walking back into his childhood home, his mom looked at him asked, “What’s wrong with you?” Due to the spread of malaria in Vietnam, he took iodine tablets, which turned his skin orange. 

“I didn’t know it,” he said with a laugh. 

Tobiason is proud of his service to this country, proud to be a veteran. 

“I am proud of the fact that between my squads and platoons, I never lost anybody,” he said with distinction. 

Tobiason said being a veteran was just something he had to do, taking up where the previous generation, what he calls the “greatest generation,” left off. 

“I felt obligated,” he said. “I am very proud of the fact that I fought. I am definitely not ashamed.” 

“Someone else did it for us,” added Barb. 

With a welcome celebration in D.C. and a welcome-home ceremony in Cedar Rapids, not to mention numerous people coming up to the Honor Flight veterans thanking them for their service, Tobiason said he’s never felt so honored in one day versus the last half century. Truly an amazing experience… 

Once back in Iowa, the Tobiason family had family and friends from all over the U.S. there to celebrate. Barb contacted so many people, asking that they be there to honor her husband. 

“I was not expecting that,” said Tobiason. 

Even their daughter, Kim, and her family flew in for the day from Indiana. 

Tobiason said there were so many kids waving the American Flag as the veterans made their way through the airport. The Rough Riders hockey team was even there to welcome them home. 

“It’s something I can now cross off my bucket list,” said Tobiason. 


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