It’s not often that you are honored with an act that you did years and years ago.
Lyle Solem experienced an “once in a lifetime event” when he pulled up to the La Crosse, WI airport at 5am in May to participate in an Honor Flight. The Honor Flight Network is a non-profit organization created soley to honor America’s veterans for all of their sacrifices. Veterans from WWI, WWII, Korean War, and the Vietnam War can apply to go to Washington D.C. with all expenses paid to visit memorials and find closure in their service. More than 1,000 people were at the airport to greet Lyle and other veterans with applause and handshakes. Everywhere he went with the Honor Flight that day he was greeted with crowds of people excitedly waiting to shake his hand and thank him for his service.
Lyle knows his experience may not be the same as for others, but he believes that serving the Army changed his life. “It was the best decision of my life.” It brought him to God. Lyle wasn’t a church-going guy before he enlisted in the Army, but we went to church every Sunday for something to do. When he arrived in Germany in November 1953, he signed up to join a German family for Christmas. He did the same in 1954, requesting to join the same family. One Christmas, the chaplain asked for soldiers to go invite children to the base for a Christmas meal. More than 150 children from poverty-stricken families, age 3 to 12, enjoyed a Christmas dinner and each opened a Christmas gift (donated by the soldiers themselves) that year. “Seeing all of those kids’ eyes light up with Christmas joy changed me. I have attended church ever since.”
Serving in the armed forces without a doubt changes people, those who served and those at home. Life will never be the same after that experience.
What is a challenge you faced while serving in the armed forces?
Lyle Solem: While Lyle was in Germany, two of his brothers were also serving—one in Korea and the other in America. All three brothers were enlisted at the same time during the Korean War, 1953-1955. One of the challenges for him during that time was imagining how his mother was doing.
Harvey Holtan: “It was my first time away from Rock Dell, my home. The first time I was in an airplane was also the first time I jumped out of an airplane.” Harvey enlisted to be a paratrooper with the US Army Airborne.
Les Thronson: “It was a challenge to learn to take orders without question and to keep your boots shined and your clothes hung up.”
Tom Moon: “A challenge I dealt with then, and that I am still working through, is holding on to reality. All my life I was told not to kill, yet there I was in Vietnam, holding a rifle, told to pull the trigger.”
Dave Dunn: “Adjusting to foreign culture was a challenge for me.” He was stationed in Japan.
Paul Baker: “One of my solemn and heartfelt memories as an Army Chaplain involved accompanying an Army casualty affairs officer following the attack on the Pentagon on September 11, 2001.”
Bob Brunett: “The two biggest challenges were being separated from my wife and living in an area and time that had a different culture and values than I had.” Bob served in the Army 1968-1970, with the last year in Vietnam.