November 8, 2012 at 7:23 a.m.

Local veterans take Honor Flight to D.C. World War II Memorial

Local veterans take Honor Flight to D.C. World War II Memorial
Local veterans take Honor Flight to D.C. World War II Memorial

The National World War II Memorial opened in April 2004 to honor the 16 million Americans who served in the Armed Forces, including more than 400,000 men and women who lost their lives in battle.

Today, the federal government estimates at least 1,000 WWII veterans are dying daily. Most of the remaining WWII survivors range in age from 85-95 and these are the target participants for the National Honor Flight Network. Chapters and hubs nationwide include four in Minnesota; in Roseville, Duluth, St. Cloud and Staples. The network aims to bring WWII survivors to visit and see their memorial and other sites in Washington, D.C., and the network mission will continue until each and every interested veteran from that era has made the trip. Through last spring, 700 of those veterans had made the trip – free of charge to them – on seven different flights as coordinated through the Honor Flight Twin Cities office in Roseville. About a month ago, on Saturday, Oct. 6, another 100 from the greater Twin Cities metro flew out from Minneapolis-St. Paul International to Reagan National Airport for their day of adventure and to reminiscing. That group included Frank Cole, of Chisago City and Darwin Berglund, of Lindstrom.

Each Honor Flight guest is assigned a “guardian” to assist them making their way through the airport and seeing the sights of the city and enjoying other activities of their day. Cole’s guardian was Louise Angrimson, also of Lindstrom. Sometimes, the Honor Flight veterans are joined by one of their own children or another relative. Cole, age 86, and Angrimson are not related, but Angrimson’s late father, Jim Van Kempen, had also been a WWII veteran and, like Cole, part of his service was in Okinawa, Japan. Cole was the youngest of three brothers, each of whom served during the war, and he was only 11 when their father, a World War I veteran, had died. Cole’s mother signed his enlistment papers when he was 17.

Angrimson understands losing a parent before the teenage years, as she was just 10 when her veteran father died at 42 of pancreatic cancer. She and Cole met with the Press for coffee and to talk about their Honor Flight. (Berglund was invited to join that discussion but could not attend.) “I didn’t get to hear my dad’s stories, so I hear his stories through you guys,” Angrimson told Cole over coffee. “It was very rewarding to be one of the guardians. It’s the least we could do, to take you to this memorial that you deserved a long, long time ago.” The Honor Flight trips do not include an overnight stay.

Participating veterans and their guardians were required to reach the airport terminal by 5:45 a.m. Oct. 6 for registration and boarding passes. Their time for travel, sightseeing and meals filled about 17 hours before families, friends and a military band welcomed them back at MSP from their charter plane around 11 p.m. The group had met its scheduled arrival by landing 9:30 a.m. Eastern time at Reagan National, and from there they boarded buses for the day’s first stop at the Iwo Jima Memorial. By 11 a.m., they headed for the Women in Military Service for America Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery. Sometime around noon they were eating their lunch on the bus for a ride past the Air Force and Navy memorials, the Pentagon, the Smithsonian and U.S. Capitol buildings, the Washington Monument and the White House. Their keynote stop, for a flag and wreath placing ceremony at the World War II memorial, began at 1:45 p.m., and at 3:15 p.m. they went on a 90-minute tour to see the Lincoln Memorial and the Korean conflict and Vietnam war veterans memorials. Many of the Honor Flight veterans and their guardians could walk among those four sites, as they’re located within a few blocks of one another. Three veterans did use wheelchairs. At 5:15 p.m. they boarded their buses for one more stop and a steak buffet dinner before returning to Reagan National. “It was the trip of a lifetime, and I wish that somehow we would make it available to younger people,” Cole said, later explaining his wish that not only younger veterans, but rather all younger Americans, should see and embrace this history. “They should have the opportunity to see (the WWII memorial), to see what our country’s all about. “There’s a certain feeling about being there,” he continued. “It’s not just a place to look at. …

I couldn’t describe it all. It’s patriotism, I guess, is what you call it. It’s obvious I’m pretty patriotic, or else I wouldn’t want to go. I’m red, white and blue, is what I am.” Cole received assistance in applying for the trip through the Chisago County Veterans Service Office about a year ago. He learned about three months before the trip that he had been approved. Angrimson knew seven months in advance that she could go as a guardian, which also called for her to provide a tax-deductible contribution of $500. Neither the National Honor Flight Network nor the Honor Flight Twin Cities office, a 501(c)3 non-profit sponsored by the Minnesota Vietnam Veterans Charity, receive any government funding to cover expenses for their veteran guests. Public and private donations are accepted by checks written to MN Vietnam Veterans Charity and mailed to Honor Flight Twin Cities, ATTN Jerry Kyser, 2674 Mackubin St., Roseville MN 55113. Veteran and guardian applications for the program are available at www.honorflight.org.


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