Joe Reedy had never been to Washington, DC. The Vermillion resident never got the chance to look at the World War II Memorial that honors women and men, who, like him, served in the military during that conflict.
Reedy never got that chance until Honor Flight stepped in.
Honor Flight is a program in South Dakota (similar programs exist throughout the nation) that flies WWII veterans to Washington, DC to visit the WWII Memorial and other historical sites.
Reedy was a part of flight number seven which visited the nation's capital this past August for two days.
Reedy was able to visit the WWI Memorial, Arlington National Cemetery, the Air Force Memorial along with many other historical sites in DC.
"It was beautiful," said Reedy of his trip to DC. "There was so much work and thought for all of the memorials. I can't say one was better than the other – they were all great."
Reedy said he is one of the lucky ones from WWII because of when he was able to enlist.
"I enlisted in the Navy on VJ Day (Victory over Japan)," he said. "So the war was almost over the first few months I was in the Navy."
Even though Reedy didn't seem to serve that long in the war, the service he provided to his country is still appreciated by people like Larry Rohrer.
"Guys like Joe may say he didn't do much, but they saved the world and things would be a lot different if they didn't serve our country," said Rohrer, who co-founded South Dakota's Honor Flight along with Dave Landry. "When you put him with the other 16 million people who served in one form or another, this is what they did. They saved us and that's what the WWII Memorial is for."
The WWII Memorial was completed in April of 2004, but according to various reports, about 12 million of the 16 million soldiers who served in WWII wouldn't have a chance to see the monument that was dedicated to them.
Most of the veterans were 80 years and over, and many didn't have the means necessary to make the trip to see the memorial.
That figure drove Rohrer and Landry to action.
"We saw how many wouldn't be able to see it, and we wanted to help them," Rohrer said.
Rohrer and Landry formed the non-profit group Honor Flight, and then raised the money and found the volunteers to get the project off the ground.
In July of 2008, South Dakota's Honor Flight took its first group of WWII veterans to Washington, DC.
Rohrer said he and Landry took a lot of ideas from other Honor Flights from around the country.
"We've stolen all the ideas from others, but the one original idea we did have is to have youngsters write to the veterans and they read the letters on the trip," he said.
Reedy made the trip along with follow Vermillion residents Harriet Remdell, Fern Morse and Richard Anderson. They were part of approximately 60 South Dakota veterans who made this journey to the nation's capital.
Donations paid the travel expenses of the veterans, which amount to $700 per person. Wheelchairs are brought for any veterans that need them, and volunteers help the veterans negotiate their way around the memorials.
Rohrer said all of the walking can add up to six miles a day.
Reedy said one of the more touching moments was at Arlington National Cemetery.
"It was quite amazing," he said. "We just got out at the tomb of the unknown and witnessed the changing of the guard, and that was very touching. The military men on guard are very efficient."
The Honor Guard is informed of when the Honor Flight members are there and will give a special sign to thank the veterans of their service.
"When the veterans see the ritual, that means a lot to them," Rohrer said. "When the lieutenant comes out, he will drag his toe. The veterans know to listen for that, and that's what they do to say 'thank you.'"
The eighth Honor Flight took off this month, and Rohrer is planning on organizing two more flights yet.