Albrecht receives Honor Flight

Trip has special meaning with three generations of family military service

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This past Sunday evening, more than 30 friends and family of U.S. Army veteran Henry (Hank) Albrecht joined together at Mathews Store south of De Smet to welcome him home from the Midwest Honor Flight he took the previous day to Washington, D.C. Hank shared with everyone details of the flight and everything associated with the whole experience. He got emotional a few times, recounting the kindness and honor on display from the volunteers and everyone who saw them off and welcomed them back.

There was a banquet on Friday night in Sioux Falls for participating veterans, their chaperones (called guardians) and other family and friends. Hank’s guardian for the flight was his son Mike Albrecht, who just retired himself in March after 38 years of service in the Air Force and Air National Guard (ANG). Hank was also joined by his grandson Daniel Albrecht, who recently enlisted in the ANG and departs for basic training in the next few months.

DAY OF THE FLIGHT

On Saturday morning, they had a wake-up call at 2:30 a.m. and instructions to be in the hotel lobby by 3:30 a.m. to depart for the Sioux Falls airport. For a send-off at the airport, two firetrucks shot streams of water over the airplane in an arc.

After landing in D.C., the veterans were taken on a guided tour through the city, seeing most of the war memorials and the changing of the guard at Arlington Cemetery’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Hank has been to D.C. before, but on this trip, he commented that he got to see the World War II and Korean War memorials for the first time. He explained how long the day was, seeing all the sites and getting on and off the bus with so many people. A total of 10 honor flights from other states were all in D.C. that same day.

When they landed back in Sioux Falls around 9 p.m. after a very long day, they were loaded onto buses, and police escorted them to the Sanford Center. The buses pulled right into the arena, where they were greeted by a surprise welcome home from hundreds of people in the stands, clapping and cheering when the veterans disembarked. A band and a group of Scottish bagpipers were also playing.

Hank said he has never in his life seen such kindness and honor from so many people. His son Mike overheard one Vietnam veteran say that he wished this would have happened 50 years ago when they first returned from that conflict.

FLIGHT PARTICIPANTS

There were 84 veterans and 84 guardians on this most recent flight, which included people from South Dakota, Iowa, Minnesota and Nebraska. The oldest participant was a WWII and Korean veteran from Howard, S.D., who turns 100 years old next month; his guardian was newly elected S.D. State Representative Tim Reisch.

Hank is just the latest Kingsbury County veteran to go on an Honor Flight. Previous participants also include Gary Wolkow and Mike Frey from De Smet and Leon Josephson from Arlington, whose guardian was Gary Schumacher from De Smet. Frey’s guardian was an Iowa woman he did not previously know, who was the wife of a Marine.

HISTORY

The Honor Flight Network was formed in 2005 by Jeff Miller and Earl Morse with a mission of honoring our nation’s veterans by taking them to Washington, D.C. to visit the memorials and monuments dedicated to their service and sacrifice. While originally focused on honoring our nation’s WWII veterans, the Honor Flight Network now also honors those who served in the Korean War, Vietnam War, intermediary operations, and in special cases of terminal illness or injury, veterans from more recent service eras.

Since its formation in 2005, the Honor Flight Network has taken more than 245,000 veterans to D.C. Today, the Honor Flight Network includes over 128 hubs throughout the country dedicated to carrying out the Honor Flight mission, and the Network, as a whole, serves over 22,000 veterans each year.

The program is run almost completely on a volunteer basis and is financed by fundraisers through American Legion chapters all over the country, as well as donations from the public.

An organization called “Seeds for Success” donated $175,000, which allowed one entire flight to be added to the 2022 schedule. This allowed Hank to go on his flight this year instead of having to wait until 2023, as originally planned.

Interestingly, guardians pay their own way, about $1,000/person.

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