by TaLeiza Calloway
World War II veteran Al Pflipsen is quick to tell you his military service is not as interesting as others. He says this because he never made it overseas and served from 1944-1945.
That didn’t matter to the line of children from an Alabama school waiting to greet him and more than 60 veterans visiting Washington, D.C. recently. Pflipsen was one of five St. Joseph residents who was selected to board an Honor Flight April 28 to D.C.
After speaking with one of the chaperones for the students, he learned the students gather every Saturday to thank veterans for their service as they tour memorials.
“This really encouraged us,” Pflipsen said of seeing the children. “I feel we often hear only the bad about children. If they’re to be our future leaders, then we’re in pretty good shape.”
St. Joseph residents Gib Stock, Al Torborg, Don Schneider and Jack Blommer also took the flight.
Sponsored by Freedom Flight Inc. and the POW-MIA Hot Air Balloon team, the free trip sends veterans to Washington, D.C. on an Honor Flight so they can see their memorials. This was the first time Pflipsen, 86, has been to Washington.
One of the things that amazed him was the architecture of the nation’s capitol.
“It was a really enjoyable trip,” Pflipsen said. “I saw a lot I had not seen before.”
Stock couldn’t sleep on the way back home from D.C. One couldn’t blame him if he did. The group started the day at 4:30 a.m. and didn’t return to Minnesota until after 10 p.m., Stock said. The 80-year-old admits not going to bed until after 1 a.m.
“I couldn’t sleep,” Stock said. “I was too excited about what I had just seen. It was amazing.”
It was a full day. Stock, a Korean War veteran, said veterans and their guardians, who accompanied them, saw the Lincoln, Vietnam and Korean War memorials. They also went to Arlington National Cemetery, saw the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and stopped by the Iwo Jima, Air Force and Navy memorials.
The group flew from St. Cloud Regional Airport to Dulles Airport and then took buses to the memorials.
Stock served in the U.S. Army for two years. He too liked the warm welcome from those who applauded their arrival and thanked them for their service.
“When we came back from Korea we didn’t get any recognition,” Stock said. “It (the D.C. welcome) made you feel very good.”
If Stock ever needs a reminder of the gratitude many feel for his service, all he has to do is look at a handmade card from one of the children at the Dulles Airport. It’s message says it all:
Soldier to veteran: You’re still an American hero.