Holz honored for military service

by Julie Breshears

Robert Holz in Fort Dodge

A hero’s welcome was waiting for more than 140 veterans, including Robert Holz, 86, of rural Jefferson, when they returned from the 17th Brushy Creek Area Honor Flight to Washington, D.C. on Sept. 15. They were greeted by waving American flags, cheers, applause and some tears, when they returned to Fort Dodge. Holz, a Korean veteran from Greene County, participated in the honor flight along with veterans from 23 other Iowa counties.

The long but rewarding day started out early as the 737 took off around 6:30 am from Fort Dodge Regional Airport. A few dozen volunteer honor flight staff, including Ron Newsum, flight organizer, accompanied the group on the flight and throughout the day.

The non-stop flight landed a few hours later at Dulles Airport. A highlight of the experience for Holz was being greeted by hundreds of people at the airport, welcoming him and the other vets to the nation’s capital and showing appreciation for their military service. The volunteers included people of all ages, with children handing out homemade cards, old and young shaking hands and many holding signs and flags. After many hugs and much applause, the group headed out for their tour.

The veterans and honor flight staff traveled in three tour buses throughout the city with police escort, complete with waling sirens and flashing lights. Traveling as VIPs in this special transport, the group was able to navigate quickly through the city and obtained access to the back of the capitol building where tour buses are not usually allowed.

2nd Lt Robert C. Holz

The agenda for the special travelers also included the Washington Monument and Arlington National Cemetery. The group watched the changing of the guards at Arlington and paid respects to veterans who have passed away. Several war memorials were part of the tour, including the stainless steel soldiers of the Korean Memorial, the impressive World War II Memorial and the somber black wall of the Vietnam Memorial. At the Vietnam Memorial, some veterans found the names of fallen colleagues and took rubbings to bring home. Other stops included the Lincoln Memorial and the U.S. Marine Corp (Iwo Jima) Memorial.

As part of the experience, Robert was presented with a certificate, card and other mementos. In addition, a gift box was prepared by volunteers, donors and school children through Operation Gratitude and was presented to each vet before the trip. Three generous sized meals were provided during the day in addition to an orientation dinner held before the flight.

No doubt the day proved to be a day rich with memories– remembrances from the past and new memories made.

After a full day of touring the group headed back to Iowa. Family, friends and volunteers crowded on the tarmac to welcome home the group. Fourth degree Knights of Columbus were on hand in feathered caps and regal garb to form the beginning of the welcome passageway. American flags flanked both sides of the walkway. Guardsmen, other veterans and volunteers stood on either side. Patriotic tunes played by the Brushy Creek Honor Flight Band filled the warm night air.

As each vet was introduced and exited the plane, cheers and applause arose from the crowd. Robert was introduced, the only vet from Greene County. He descended the stairs from the plane then made his way along the people, flags and signs. He stopped often to shake hands, exchange a few words. Finally, his family was waiting there amongst the faces- proud and happy to see their hero.

When asked if he was glad he went, he was obviously moved, the answer was evident. It was awesome, an incredible day!

The Brushy Creek Area Honor Flight is part of the National Honor Flight Network but no state or national organizational funds or government funds are used to finance the endeavors. The honor flights are paid for entirely by donations from companies, corporations and individuals with the vast majority of donations coming from individuals. The group has raised $1.7 million to finance honor flights since 2010. Each flight costs $100,000. Funds donated by Greene County citizens and businesses only fund honor flights for Greene County Veterans.

Robert Holz entered ROTC while attending Iowa State University. Upon graduation he enlisted in the Air Force during the Korean War. He was stationed in Alaska. At present he farms near Jefferson.

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