Dubuque-area WWII and Korean War veterans on Honor Flights - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Dubuque-area WWII and Korean War veterans on Honor Flights

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Korean War veteran Paul Staner, pictured here as a 19-year-old, will board Tuesday's Honor Flight of Greater Dubuque Korean War veteran Paul Staner, pictured here as a 19-year-old, will board Tuesday's Honor Flight of Greater Dubuque

Nearly 180 Dubuque-area World War II and Korean War veterans are visiting the nation's capital Monday and Tuesday. These are all veterans seeing their war's memorial for the first time ever.

This week marks the seventh and eighth Honor Flights of Greater Dubuque. Conducted back-to-back, half of the nearly 180 veterans left for Washington DC Monday morning and returned Monday night. The other half leaves Tuesday morning and returns that night.

Paul Staner is one of the veterans on Tuesday's flight. He was a US Army mechanic in the 75th Infantry Combat Regiment in the Korean War. Although he never saw combat, he certainly remembers how he was treated upon his only two-week leave in his two years of service.

On a train with some fellow service members, he recalled Monday afternoon in his Cascade home, "we got to Kansas City, and they told us that we'd have to get off the train, that...we had to change cars. So they moved it down the track about a block or two. When we went to get on, there was no seats left. The civilians had the seats," Staner said. "It didn't really bother me then, but it kind of bothers me now."

He said the seeds of anti-troop sentiment felt strongest during the Vietnam War started growing during his time in the service.

"It's so great to be honored to go on an Honor Flight," Staner said. "When I was in the service, it was-- You know, the Vietnam War military wasn't looked down on very good, and it started when I was in the service."

For the majority of his two years of service, he was stationed in Okinawa, Japan. He corresponded regularly with his then-sweetheart Janet.

"It wasn't long after I got out of the service, I come back and asked her to marry me," Staner said smiling, sitting next to that woman - his wife - at their kitchen table Monday.

Paul and Janet Staner have been married for more than 50 years. For nearly 45 of those, the Staners worked the land on a farm that provided for their six children. Their post-retirement home is in a quiet neighborhood in town.

It was love at first glance, at a dance, for Paul Staner.

"I remember right where she was standing on the floor," Staner said. "I went over and asked her for a dance."

The moment wasn't so memorable for his wife.

"I don't remember the first dance," she said, "but the second dance, then I remember."

The two started dating, but it was a romance interrupted by his enlistment. Paul Staner was 19 at the time. The two stayed in touch and, upon his return, built their lives together.

Janet Staner said she has no doubt her husband will enjoy his Honor Flight, a trip almost canceled by a car accident the two got into last month. Both suffered injuries, but the couple made the decision Paul Staner would still take the flight.

Tuesday morning, he'll do just that.

Honor Flights are a whirlwind tour of the nation's capital at no cost to the veterans. In Dubuque, the vets gather for their flight at about 5 a.m. and return home that night around 10 p.m.

Each flight costs about $80,000, but organizers save some $10,000 by having back-to-back flights.

Anybody wishing to welcome home either flight's veterans can do so that night at Dubuque's Grand River Center around 10:15 p.m.

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