Carlton County veterans fly to Washington, D.C.
Two military veterans from Carlton County were flown to Washington D.C. on May 4 for a special day in their honor. Joining the Honor Flight were Vietnam veterans Rick Lahti, 69, a Cloquet resident who served in the Navy, and David Burt, 70, a Bar...
Two military veterans from Carlton County were flown to Washington D.C. on May 4 for a special day in their honor.
Joining the Honor Flight were Vietnam veterans Rick Lahti, 69, a Cloquet resident who served in the Navy, and David Burt, 70, a Barnum resident who served in the Army from the spring of 1969 until the fall of 1970.
A third veteran in their group, Tom Goar, 82, of Duluth, served during the Korean War era with the Air Force, but didn't serve in Korea. He served in the Air Force from 1955 to 1963, then in the National Guard from 1964 to 1990.
The Honor Flight is free to veterans and includes a full day under the care of a guardian who is assigned to them and accompanies them for the day.
The veterans boarded their chartered flight at the Duluth International Airport at 6:30 a.m. May 4.
When the veterans landed at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Washington, D.C., they were shocked to find themselves greeted by a large crowd clapping, cheering and waving flags, as well as bands and honor guards.
"It was an amazing experience," Lahti said. "It brings tears to my eyes."
"We were shaking hands all day," Burt added. He said people came up to them when they stopped at various locations to shake their hands and thank them for their service.
They met with other veterans, were split into groups and loaded onto four buses. Tour guides explained the history and significance at each stop, beginning with the World War II memorial. There, the men had the opportunity to receive a smooch from a female volunteer dressed as a pin-up girl of the era. The women left red lipstick with each kiss on the cheek.
Wheelchairs and medics were on hand at all buses and there were plenty of snacks offered all day.
Burt's goal was to go to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall and make a color etching of a classmate's name, Kenneth Westerberg, who did not make it home from Vietnam, and give the etching to Westerberg's brother.
The men said they were treated like visiting dignitaries. Police escorts led buses through stop lights and heavy traffic quickly and efficiently.
"It was out of this world," Lahti said.
When the tour ended, the veterans boarded their respective planes and headed back home. At the Duluth airport, another surprise greeted the veterans. Bands played and the patriot guards and honor guards were also in attendance.
"There was another big welcome home," Lahti said.
Burt and Lahti recommend all veterans experience an Honor Flight. For more information, visit honorflight.org. Top priority is given to World War II and terminally ill veterans from all wars.