Tobiason accompanies veterans on Honor Flight

Posted May 8, 2013 at 12:37 pm

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PHOTO: David Tobiason, right, poses with WWII veteran Gordon Pape. Tobiason was Pape’s guardian on the Honor Flight of the Quad Cities on April 25.

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PHOTO: WWII and Korean War veterans on the HFQC pose for a picture at the WWII Memorial in Washington, D.C.

 

By Kim Brooks, Express Editor

The Honor Flight organization was set up to fly U.S. veterans to our nation’s capital in Washington, D.C. for a day to see the memorials that were built and dedicated in their honor and for their sacrifices. These Honor Flights, which take place all over Eastern Iowa and the country, would not be possible without the donations of individuals, businesses, American Legion posts and others. Their generous donations allow veterans to go on the flights at absolutely no cost.

Another facet of these Honor Flights are the guardians. These are men and women, many of them veterans themselves, who volunteer to tend to the needs of our older veterans so they can safely participate in the Honor Flight program. Sometimes, these guardians are family of the veterans on the flight, but many times that’s not always a possibility.

Three years ago, local veteran David Tobiason put his name on a list through the Honor Flight of the Quad Cities (HFQC). He finally received a call from them in late March, asking if he could accompany a WWII veteran on a flight headed out of the Quad Cities on April 25.

“It’s all about those veterans,” stressed Tobiason. The flight included both WWII and Korean War veterans.

Tobiason himself served in the U.S. Army in 1970 and ’71. He served stateside at Ft. Benning, Ga., during that time after he was drafted in his early 20s. His brother, Glenn Tobiason served in the Army as well, but was sent to Vietnam. Tobiason said family members were not allowed to serve together.

“I met a lot of friends during the service,” said Tobiason, who was in college during the draft. “It really turned my life around.”

When the HFQC called up Tobiason to be a guardian for WWII veteran Gordon Pape, Tobiason said he knew he wanted to help.

The one-day flight left early in the morning and returned late at night to a parade of family, friends and more to welcome the veterans home from a long day’s trip.

“Little kids were waving flags as we came through the sea of people,” Tobiason said of their warm welcome home. “I was shocked at the amount of people at the airport when we came home. It was just awesome!”

He said there were hundreds and hundreds of people at the welcome-home ceremony.

“It was quite emotional for the veterans.” Tobiason said as he wheeled Gordon Pape through the people at the airport, people reached out to shake the hands of the returning veterans.

He said everywhere they went in D.C. from the airport to the memorials and monuments, people came up to the Honor Flight veterans, thanking them for their service. He said kids would ask for autographs and pictures of the veterans as well.

“We had a long day,” said Tobiason.

The full day of stops in D.C. took the veterans to many of the historic sites such as the WWII Memorial, the National Air and Space Museum, the Korean War Memorial, Vietnam Wall, Iwo Jima Memorial, Arlington National Cemetery, the changing of the guard, the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, the Air Force Memorial and the Women in Military Service for America Memorial.

“I had no idea there was a memorial for women veterans,” said Tobiason.

Throughout the whole day, Tobiason praised the Honor Flight organization for their great planning of the trip.

“It was a fun time,” he said. “I’d do it again in a heart beat! You learn something on this trip, that people really respect veterans differently than when I was in the service.”

When U.S. soldiers returned home from Vietnam, many Americans looked down at them because they were against the war.

Tobiason said these Honor Flight trips would not be possible without the financial support of organizations like the Monticello American Legion and local veterans.

“Our own Legion has donated money to help keep the Honor Flight going,” he pointed out.

Tobiason is involved with the local Legion as well as the Memorial Board and the Monticello Drill Team.

Being an Honor Flight guardian was an experience of a lifetime for Tobiason.

“You don’t just have to be a veteran to sign up,” he said of giving your time to the program for the good of veterans. On this particular flight, there were 161 on the plane; the oldest veteran was 95 years old.

To learn more about the Honor Flight, visit www.honorflight.org. There are multiple flights in Eastern Iowa: Cedar Rapids, Dubuque, Quad Cities and Waterloo.

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PHOTO: Tobiason said he had no idea there was a United States Air Force Memorial in Washington, D.C. Here, the WWII and Korean War veterans gather at the base of the memorial. (Photos courtesy of David Tobiason)

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