Like many veterans, Jack Pond of Davenport didn’t receive any kind of homecoming ceremony after he came home from Korea.
But Pond and other veterans were saluted Wednesday on the eve of today’s Honor Flight of the Quad-Cities journey to Washington, D.C. The final 2012 trip for the Quad-City chapter involves 69 Korean War and 20 World War II veterans.
They will leave this morning from the Quad-City International Airport in Moline and return tonight, spending the day touring military monuments dedicated in their honor and other sights.
Quad-City and Clinton Hy-Vee stores are sponsoring the flight, the fourth sponsored by the company and the 21st flight overall for the Quad-City chapter.
“This is absolutely fantastic,” Pond, 82, said during the pre-flight banquet at Hy-Vee on East Kimberly Road, Davenport. “When I got out of Korea, there was no welcome. This is the neatest thing.”
Veterans and guests were honored as they entered the banquet room by members of the Davenport North and Central ROTC units. In addition, the Sudlow Intermediate School band performed in the parking lot.
LaVern Wenndt, 80, of Cedar Rapids was among those choked up by the warm response. “This is one of those receptions that puts a lump in your throat,” he said. “This is amazing tonight.”
He attended with Alvin Licht, 83, of Lowden, Iowa, the brother of his wife, Ellie, and Darrell Yutesler, 79, also of Lowden, whose wife is Ellie’s sister. Wenndt, Licht and Yutesler were in the Army during the Korean War.
Yutesler also was overcome with how they were honored Wednesday night.
“It means quite a bit,” he said. “When we came back from Korea, they did not have anything at all. This is quite a reception.”
“I have never had a reception like this in all my life. Not even when I got married,” Licht said.
“It’s quite a great surprise. I didn’t know that was going to happen,” echoed Ronald McMillan of Hampton.
Thirteen Hy-Vee representatives will make the flight as escorts or guardians for veterans who are in need of assistance during the trip, including Jason Logsdon of Davenport, the operations manager at the East Kimberly Hy-Vee.
“Hy-Vee has sponsored so many of these and everyone has enjoyed it so much that I wanted to enjoy it myself,” he said. “I have heard it is very emotional for the veterans. Some have a lot of friends they lost. They are tough memories. I hope this will add some closure to it for them.”