On May 4, Army veteran and Kroschel resident Loren Rabe experienced what he considers one of the biggest honors of his lifetime, joining approximately 100 other veterans on an Honor Flight.
The Honor Flight Network was founded in 2007 and was designed to honor WWII veterans who, without the help of the network, might never see the monument erected in their honor in Washington D.C. Now, also accepting applications from Korean and Vietnam veterans, they have honored hundreds of thousands by escorting them to D.C.
Almost at a loss for words, Rabe said he couldn’t come up with enough adjectives to describe how amazing the experience was. There were eight WWII veterans on the flight along with 66 from the Korean War and 26 Vietnam era veterans, said Rabe.
Rabe counted himself extra lucky on this trip because he was accompanied by his daughter Steph. She was able to join her dad on the trip as a “guardian.” Guardians are responsible for a group of veterans, making sure they are with their group and on the bus at the correct times and things of that nature.
On the morning of May 4, Rabe and the other veterans arrived at the Duluth airport at 5 a.m. They were greeted by the Legion Riders, a band and hundreds of people. During the flight there was even “mail call.” Each veteran had a backpack in which there were letters from their family and friends; Rabe estimated he had at least 30 letters from home.
They touched down at Reagan International Airport around 9:30 a.m. and again were greeted by more Legion Riders and a line of people that “seemed to go on forever,” said Rabe. “They make you feel like a hero; well, I’m no hero.” he said. “I was in the service but I didn’t feel like I deserved something like this. Not like the WWII guys or the Korean vets or the guys that were in Vietnam.”
There were other groups of Honor Flight attendees from all over the country. Each group wore a different color to help keep them together.
They were transported by four buses to the monuments. “There was no such thing as stopping at a red light,” said Rabe. They were being escorted by police on motorcycles who stopped traffic to allow the buses to get them to their destinations without a problem.
They viewed the WWII Memorial, which Rabe said was his favorite, and found the Minnesota pillar, making sure to get a picture next to it. “These WWII guys, they were brave,” he said. “They wanted to get in there and fight.”
The tour continued with a visit to the Lincoln Memorial, the Korean War Veterans Memorial and many other monuments and memorials throughout D.C. They had a bag lunch at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial. It was more food than he could eat, said Rabe.
It was time to head back to Minnesota. Upon arriving back to the Duluth Airport, Rabe said, “Every cop car in Duluth must have been at the airport, with their lights flashing and a fire truck in the front welcoming this plane back.” There were again hundreds of people there to greet them. “It was a great honor,” he said.
Rabe finished by saying, “I hope If you write anything in the paper, it’s that I recommend anybody that has been in the service, WWII, Korea or Vietnam, should sign up for this honor.”