Waterloo's two inaugural Honor Flights are now past. Henry Zeien was one of the veterans on the first flight. His story begins as a young man not so excited to enter the armed forces.
"I knew and I tried to dodge them," Henry Zeien said when asked about what it was like to be drafted.
Zeien, the oldest of six children, grew up north of New Hampton and had already started a career in truck driving when he was drafted into service.
"Tried to get rid of everything and I couldn't sell nothing, except the car and so then I was ready to go the army," Zeien spoke about his efforts to evade the armed forces. When he was eventually found, the army had this to say, "They said we're glad you came back."
Zeien was first stationed in Alaska's Aleutian Islands. He had this to say about the area, "If you walked through it, you had to pick your feet up almost to your knees to get through that tundra. And the dirt up there, if you went in the bottom of a valley and left a Cat there and idle it would sink itself through the mud. And then in the winter time when boats would come up with supplies we'd have to go to work and push the snow off you know and clear everything then they'd scatter everything wherever they could in case the Japanese do come."
After more than two years in Alaska, Henry was transferred to Germany.
"When we got there, then the first thing was we ah, anyway we monkey'd around til we got some trucks," Zeien said when he first arrived to help support the Battle of the Bulge. After Germany surrendered, Zeien helped truck German soldiers home that had been in Allied prison camps.
"Yeah, they were just like you and I. They didn't want to fight wars any worse than we did," Zeien said describing the German prisoners of war.
A big coincidence happened when Henry was able to track down his brother Joe, who also was serving in Germany.
"Joe was on their truck and he heard my voice and he couldn't believe it that I could find him," Zeien said with a tear in his eye.
The brothers reunion was captured in a photo to always preserve the memory.
"And he says I just got to have a picture of that because I was half way around the world apart," Zeien said.
Three years after the war ended, Henry started Zeien Excavation in Waterloo, putting his war experience to good use.
Stories like Henry Zeien's are part of the Veterans Project of the Five Sullivan Brothers Iowa Veterans Museum in Waterloo. Their goal is preserve the stories of the men and women serving in uniform.
The first stop was the World War II Memorial, where one family was anxiously awaiting the arrival of their veteran, Lyle Swan. They drove all night from Kentucky and Tennessee just to see him arrive.More >>
The first stop was the World War II Memorial, where one family was anxiously awaiting the arrival of their veteran, Lyle Swan. They drove all night from Kentucky and Tennessee just to see him arrive, and cheered as he rolled close.More >>
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