Some gave all - Iowa DOT retirees on Freedom Flight to Washington, D.C.

MCM-Iwo-Jima-MemorialSome gave all. With the conflicts going on right now around the world, it is more important than ever to remember our veterans not just on Veterans Day, but every day. The Iowa DOT proudly supports our military service members.

 “Military service back in the 1960s and 70s wasn’t like it is today. For us, military service wasn’t an option. It was at least expected, if not required due to the draft. You served and then got on with your life if you were able. Service was just something you gave part of your life to and wasn't considered all that heroic,” said retired DOTer Jerry Dickinson in what is now the Office of Strategic Communications. Dickinson, a Vietnam era veteran, was one of 15 retired DOTers who were able to travel to Washington, D.C., on a Freedom Flight organized by several Story County groups and funded by private donations.

Former DOTers on the trip included Loren Appenzeller, Robert Blattert, Hubert Bowers, Robert Davis, Jerry Dickinson, Robert Folkmann, Gene Hedberg, Norman Hockett, Carl Hokel, Norman Luiken, George Martens, Billy McCall, Ole Skaar Jr., Wayne Wilson, and Hank Zaletel. 

Tuesday, Oct. 7, was a long day for the 15 DOTers and 133 others who served in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. The oldest veteran in the group was 102, the youngest, just 60. They met at the Iowa State Center parking lot in the predawn hours to board buses to the Des Moines Airport for a scheduled 6:45 a.m. flight. But, just like they so often remembered from their military service, it was “hurry up and wait,” as the flight was delayed by almost two hours.

The extra time gave the veterans and a dozen volunteers time to get to know one another and share stories. Once the flight was in the air, the excitement mounted for the sights to come. “There was a lot of conversation on the bus and on the flight,” said Dickinson. “I think everyone was excited to be able to go. Although some of the people might have been able to go to see the memorials on their own, there is something special about going with a group of people who have a shared experience. I can’t thank the organizers of the trip enough. They were there every step of the way with whatever we needed.” 

Mitch, Jerry and Ole
From left: Ole Skaar Jr., Jerry Dickinson, Mitch Dillavou

Once the veterans and volunteers reached Washington, D.C., they were met by Mitch Dillavou, director of the Project Delivery Bureau, and his wife, Kim, who had traveled to Washington a day earlier. Dillavou, who is a member of the Ames Elks Lodge, one of the sponsors of the Freedom Flights, has been involved in the planning of each of the past flights.

The group toured Arlington National Cemetery and witnessed the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns. “That was almost beyond words,” said Dickinson. “Everywhere you looked, there were graves. The changing of the guard was extremely precise and impressive. There were a lot of tears flowing at that moment.”

After boarding buses at Arlington, the group toured the National World War II Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Air Force/Navy Memorial, Korean War Memorial, and the Iwo Jima Memorial (U.S. Marine Corps Memorial). 

Korean War Veterans Memorial

“For me the most moving memorial was the one dedicated to the Korean War,” said Dickinson. “That is a forgotten war for many people. The memorial itself is made up of statues of a platoon of 19 men on patrol. It was very haunting as the eyes of the men seemed to follow you.” 

Dickinson continued, “The Vietnam Memorial is impressive because of the sheer number of names on that wall. Each of these names represents a life lost. At the time those who survived Vietnam came home, the peace elements were very anti-service and those who might have supported it were fairly silent. This memorial is a little bit of payback for the poor treatment at the time.” 

The 15 Iowa DOT service members who were able to see these memorials are just a portion of the proud DOT tradition of patriotism. Dickinson said, “As we saw at these memorials, it was clear there are so many who deserve the ‘hero’ title as they gave their lives to protect the freedoms we all enjoy today.”




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