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Double header for Honor Flight of Greater Dubuque

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Veterans and guardians wait to board the bus Monday morning that will take them to the plane Veterans and guardians wait to board the bus Monday morning that will take them to the plane

The first of two Honor Flights this week for Greater Dubuque had a successful take-off early Monday morning.

91 veterans of World War II and the Korean War took off shortly after 7 a.m. from the Dubuque Regional Airport.

Korean War veteran Thomas Martens had never before traveled to Washington.

"This will all be new to me, so I'll enjoy it, and I think it's a great thing, too, for everybody," he said.

The fast-paced tour of the nation's war memorials won't bother him, he said.

"I'm a little younger than the rest of them, so I guess I'll be able to get by alright," Martens said.

He and World War II veteran Gene Chappell will be sticking together.

"I've had friends that have gone on this Honor Flight, and they really live it up," Chapel said.

Guardians accompany the vets, ensuring safety and smooth travels. Chappell and Martens have guardian John Tierney.

"My dad was a World War II veteran, so he would've loved the opportunity to go on something like this," Tierney said. "Unfortunately, he passed away 30 years ago and didn't ever get to see these memorials, so I'll go on his behalf and show these gentlemen a good time today."

At Dulles International Airport, the vets were greeted with a warm welcome. From there, they toured the nation's war memorials and monuments.

Al Bailey is with the Honor Flight Network and accompanies Honor Flights all across the country to ensure the trip goes smoothly. He said seeing the war memorials can help veterans open up about their war experiences.

"Our goal of these trips is let them get rid of the burdens that some of these men may have carried for a number of years, over 60 years," Bailey said, "so when they come back tonight, we want them to live the rest of their years in harmony and in peace and let go of any bad feelings they've had about the war."

Monday marks the third Honor Flight for the Greater Dubuque area.

Jim McLaughlin is the Chairman of the Board of the National Honor Flight Network. He said in a phone interview Monday that Korean War veterans on the Honor Flights are rare. Of the 110 Honor Flight hubs nationwide, McLaughlin said only three or four are accepting vets from the Korean War.

Iowa has eight hubs, and McLaughlin said the state has done a marvelous job of making sure veterans of the World Wars, who take precedence, get to go see the national war memorials in Washington D.C. That has made room now for the younger Korean War vets in the Greater Dubuque area to go.

Honor Flight is a whirlwind tour of the national war memorials in Washington, D.C. Participants fly to the nation's capital, tour the memorials and return home all in one day.

Local Honor Flight organizer Perry Mason said each trip costs $80,000.

Another Honor Flight of Greater Dubuque takes off Tuesday around 7 a.m.

Anybody wishing to welcome home Monday's veterans may go to the Dubuque Regional Airport. The flight is scheduled to arrive shortly after 10 p.m., but organizers suggest people arrive earlier, as they expect a big crowd.

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