Honor Flight dinner showcases ‘great bunch of guys’ – and gals

A veteran and his wife arrive at the pre-flight dinner, held at Bettendorf’s Waterfront Convention Center, for veterans going on the next Honor Flight. CREDIT DAVE THOMPSON
A veteran and his wife arrive at the pre-flight dinner, held at Bettendorf’s Waterfront Convention Center, for veterans going on the next Honor Flight. CREDIT DAVE THOMPSON

Jeff Ostrand of Bettendorf applauded and held an American flag up high as dozens of veterans walked into the Waterfront Convention Center in Bettendorf on Thursday, May 19.

“I just have a lot of respect for these guys and all they did. That’s why I’m here” said Mr. Ostrand, a Hy-Vee employee and Marine Corps veteran who served from 1972 to 1974.

The veterans and their guests gathered at the convention center for a pre-flight dinner before they go on the 53rd Honor Flight of the Quad Cities. The flight departs the Quad Cities International Airport on Tuesday, May 24. The flight is scheduled to leave at 7 a.m. and return home about 10 p.m. that same day. There will be about 95 Vietnam veterans, one Korean War veteran and dozens of guardians on that flight.

On late Thursday afternoon, Mr. Ostrand and dozens of other Hy-Vee employees, first responders, students and local residents greeted the vets with applause, scores of flags and patriotic songs as they arrived for the dinner.

Like Mr. Ostrand, many in attendance said they wanted to show their respect for the American heroes.

“Veterans are always important. They are a great bunch of guys,”said Milan Mayor Duane Dawson, who was a guest at the dinner. “We should be honoring them every day of the week.”

Many of the Honor Flight veterans said they appreciated the welcoming gesture from the community, and are looking forward to making the trek on Washington, D.C., to see the various war monuments honoring their service.

“I talked to a bunch of guys who went on this in past years. They really enjoyed it. So, I thought I would go,” said Joseph Claseman of Clinton, Iowa, who served in the military from 1959 to 1965.

Mr. Claseman added that he signed up for the Honor Flight through his American Legion post several years ago. “It took me three and a half years to get here, but I finally made it,” he said.

The upcoming Honor Flight of the Quad Cities will have at least one unique aspect: it is scheduled to have eight women veterans on the flight. That’s more women vets than any other QC Honor Flight, according to information from Hy-Vee, which is the sponsor of the flight and the pre-flight dinner.

One of the women veterans is Betty Hagberg of Moline. She and her husband, Darrell, both served together in the Navy in the late 1960s, and both are looking forward to the Honor Flight.

“This is just a wonderful opportunity. It’s just really nice to be recognized,” said Ms. Hagberg, who served in 1968 and 1969.

Mr. Hagberg added that he hopes going on the flight to see monuments is a way to honor “those who gave their all.”

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds also attended the pre-flight dinner, but officials said she would not be available for comment during the invitation-only event.

The Quad Cities formed a local chapter of the Honor Flight network in 2008. The purpose of the flights is to fly America’s veterans to Washington, D.C., to visit memorials dedicated to honor their sacrifices, according to the local Honor Flight website.

Mr. Ostrand, who has not been on an Honor Flight, said he might be on a future flight.

“People keep asking me ‘When are you going to go? When are you going to go?’  I guess I might have to take the flight one of these days,” he added.

For more information on future Honor Flights, go to honorflightqc.org.

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