Seven Montezuma Veterans will take part in the Eastern Iowa Honor Flight to Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, Oct. 18. While in D.C. on the whirlwind tour, the veterans will visit a number of memorials and tour the city. Pictured are, from left, front row: Dave Slaven, Jack Grife, Ron Urfer, and Bill Hedrick. Back row: Ron Hensel, Don Singleton, Larry Bergeson. Submitted photo.
By J.O. Parker
They call themselves the “Magnificent Seven,” and for good reason.
On Tuesday, Oct. 18, seven Montezuma veterans will board a plane in Cedar Rapids with their chaperones/guardians to take part in Flight 45 of the Eastern Iowa Honor Flight for a whirlwind one-day trip to Washington, D.C.
The plane will depart around 6 a.m. and return around 8:30 p.m. The public is encourage to come to the Eastern Iowa Airport to participate in a “Welcome Home Celebration” following the veterans’ trip to D.C. Police and fire officials and a military band will reportedly be on hand to welcome the veterans home.
Veterans from Montezuma taking part in the Honor Flight are: Dave Slaven, Jack Grife, Ron Urfer, Bill Hedrick, Ron Hensel, Don Singleton and Larry Bergeson.
These seven men and two late members of the Legion originally signed up for the Eastern Iowa Honor Flight four years ago. Due to COVID, previous honor flights were delayed. Since that time, veterans Dennis Johnston and Rae Van Roekel, both Montezuma, have passed away and will travel with their veteran comrades in spirit.
While in D.C., the veterans will visit a number of memorials built in their honor including the World War II, Vietnam War and Korean War Memorials. Stops at the FDR, MLK and Lincoln Memorials are also part of the tour. Veterans will visit Arlington National Cemetery where they will witness the changing of the guard and take part in a special wreath dedication. Stops at the USMC and USAF Memorials are also planned along with a tour of the city where veterans will be able to see the Smithsonian, the US Capitol, White House and various other historical buildings.
Since its founding, the Eastern Iowa Honor Flight has taken nearly 4,000 veterans and their guardians to see the memorials in Washington, D.C.
“This is a trip of a lifetime for many,” noted organizers of the Eastern Iowa Honor Flight. “It is a very emotional day for these energetic men and women who sacrificed so much for the freedom and liberty of our county. Our goal is to make this a very memorable and personal experience for each of them.”
“To me, it is an honor to be able to go,” said Larry Bergeson, a US Army Veteran who said his real heroes are the World War II veterans. “I am looking forward to the trip.”
Bergeson served 22 years in the military and was a communication chief during the Vietnam War.
“I am looking forward to it and spending the day with my granddaughter, Lauryn Kozak, who is 19-years-old, and is my chaperone/ guardian,” said Ron Hensel, commander of the Montezuma American Legion. “I will definitely have my father in mind. He was a World War II veteran who served in the Navy and was awarded a purple heart.”
Hensel said he expects the trip to be very moving and emotional and said it is something every veteran should take part in.
“I was drafted into the army in June of 1965, not yet 21-years-old, and was very fortunate that I did not have to serve my country in Vietnam. Those who did have my admiration. I personally knew two young men who served in Vietnam and did not come home. I will definitely look for their names on the Vietnam Memorial Wall.”
The Eastern Iowa Honor Flight is a 501(c)3 charity staffed by volunteers. All funds are raised through donations from various sources and other fundraising events.
For more information on the Eastern Iowa Honor Flight or to make a donation, visit eihonorflight.org.