Common Ground: Cedar Valley Honor Flight a family affair - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Common Ground: Cedar Valley Honor Flight a family affair

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WATERLOO (KWWL) -

For the first time ever, Vietnam veterans will be flying to Washington D.C. on the Cedar Valley Honor Flight.

This is a big deal.

It's big because the veterans of one of this country's most unpopular wars never got the thanks they deserved.  And while this is just a small token, the chance for them to visit the memorial of their war is a big one.

And we at KWWL couldn't have been more thrilled to join them on this ride.

Tom Choplin is a Vietnam-era veteran and his guardian, Chelsea Pleggenkuhle, is his granddaughter, and a Soldier as well.  "She just means so much to me," Choplin said.

"I'm just really excited that I not only get to serve my country, but I get to see how excited it makes people like my grandpa. Because when we came home, we had a huge support system, and everyone was really proud for us. And he didn't really get that, so it's just kind of amazing," Pleggenkuhle said.

Military runs deep in their family, and they both say they're very excited to get to experience this together.

The two spent time looking at memorials for World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War.

The last memorial is where they undertook the mission to find a name: Jeff Wilson.

"His dad was in WWII at the same time my dad was overseas. It meant a lot to me to find this, and his brother was not, but I'm gonna take it back to his brother, and I think it'll mean a lot to him," Choplin said.

KWWL's Brad Hanson is also a veteran.  "I'm so honored to be able to tell their story, because I know what it means to serve," he said.  "I couldn't be more thrilled to share this day and this experience with them."

Though the experiences in the military may differ, that day they were truly standing on common ground.

And when they returned home to Waterloo to a reception of hundreds of supporters, he finally got the thanks, and the welcome home he always deserved.

"They all thank you, and it's just hard to explain, and I just appreciate them being there," he said.

These honor flights run on donations.  If you're interested in donating, email veterans@cedarvalleyhonorflights.org.

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