Two weeks ago a director of Honor Flight of the Quad-Cities, Dave "Woody" Woods, dismissed veterans from a meeting at American Legion Post 26 in Davenport, and waited until only guardians remained.

He explained how for many of the 98 veterans taking the organization’s 47th flight, this could be the first time they feel comfortable openly talking about their time serving our country.

Woods was correct.

Walking along the Vietnam Veterans Memorial dozens of veterans from the flight were focused on the wall either in groups or on their own. Many looked for specific names, some appeared overcome by the scale of the more than 58,000 names and a few walked along straightening flowers and cards left before the wall, ensuring the memorial would remain in good order.  

Sitting in his wheelchair in front of panel 9 West of the memorial Steven Round of Maquoketa softly repeated the names of the men he could remember who were among the first of his platoon to be killed after their helicopter crashed on June 30, 1970.

“There,” Round pointed up at line 106 where he found the first of three names. He rose from his wheelchair to feel the engraving of the names in the granite.

            Donnith Howard Fletcher of West Hollywood, Florida; Steve Lee Inboden of Springerton, Illinois; and Stephen Louis Klein of Seattle, Washington.

“I was on R&R that day or I’d have probably gone with ‘em,” the former Army combat medic recalled.

Standing nearby, Woods assured him there was nothing he could have done. Round nodded in acceptance having returned to his wheelchair and sat for a moment before returning to the tour bus.

The men had a full day. They toured the Udvar-Hazy Center, drove past the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial, visited the Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial, World War II Memorial, Air Force Memorial and witnessed the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery.

As they departed and arrived at Quad-City International Airport and Dulles International Airport, the men were greeted by hundreds of service members, school children and citizens from various backgrounds. At most stops during the day veterans would encounter school children on their own tour groups who would make a point to shake their hands, and thank them for their service.

“I like what I see here with all these young people,” Merrill ‘Budd’ Mohr of Sterling, Illinois said with a smile after a pair of eight grade girls from Concordia Lutheran School in Fort Wayne, Indiana, stopped to talk with him.

“I wish more people would come here,” he stated. “They’d love their country better.”

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