UPDATE: NE Iowa vets take D.C. trip

Source: Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier

By Amie Steffenicher

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Garry Dufel of Hudson and his twin brother, Larry, both signed up for two years in the Navy at the height of the Vietnam War.

Both brothers were assigned to the same aircraft carrier — the USS Coral Sea — and both helped run separate boilers in the belly of the ship. But they didn’t know the other was aboard for a few days.

“I was walking down to the chow hall and ran into him,” Garry Dufel said. “There were over 5,000 of us.”

The twin Dufels didn’t have that problem Tuesday, sitting just a few rows apart from each other on a Waterloo Honor Flight with 94 other veterans.

Most of those 96 served in Vietnam during the 1960s. Five were veterans of the Korean Conflict in the 1950s, and one — Frederick Huting, 92 — was a veteran of World War II.

Huting knew all about Honor Flights, which provide all-inclusive trips for war veterans to visit the memorials dedicated to them in Washington, D.C. He just wasn’t sure if he was up to traveling.

“I had people tell me, ‘You’ve got to go on this thing,’” Huting said. “I was always skeptical because of my age.”

His son, Waterloo Leisure Services Director Paul Huting, finally told his father he’d be going as a sponsor — so he might as well sponsor his own dad.

“Here I am,” said Frederick Huting, standing in the middle of the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. “And I’m very happy to be here.”

Huting said although he was stationed stateside, in California, during the war, and knew no one who was killed, his brother, Dale, was stationed at Pearl Harbor when it was bombed. Dale and his wife, both in the Navy, are now buried at Arlington National Cemetery, which Huting also was able to visit Tuesday.

Nonetheless, Huting found himself in the middle of water fountains and etched white stone, getting emotional.

“I didn’t realize I would get these feelings, but I did,” he said.

U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst also was on hand to talk with the veterans at the memorial, climbing onto each bus to thank them for their service.

“These memorials are for you,” she said.

“And you!” a voice shouted from the back of the bus, recognizing Ernst’s military background.

Like many, Army veteran David Redenius of rural Cedar Falls was looking forward to seeing the changing of the guard at Arlington National Cemetery. A self-described history buff, Redenius relayed the true story that the cemetery includes the front yard of Gen. Robert E. Lee, who led the Confederacy.

“Union soldiers buried Union dead in Lee’s front yard,” Redenius said, smiling at the irony.

Redenius, who served in France and Germany during the Vietnam conflict from 1963 to 1965, was a combat engineer at the largest depot in Europe. He vividly recalled hearing about President Kennedy’s assassination while playing pool on a Saturday morning.

“Everybody was worried it was a mass conspiracy — with Russia and the Warsaw Pact,” he said. “So we were all on red alert for a couple days.”

Ron Russell of Evandale, a 1970-1971 veteran of the Vietnam War with the Army 1st Calvary Division, figured he’d get emotional. A couple of his friends’ names are on the Vietnam Memorial Wall, which he shaded over with pencil and paper to get the etching of the names to take back home.

Russell’s name could have easily been up on that wall too. During his time overseas, he and his unit went on search-and-destroy missions for 15 days at a time, pausing only to return and secure their firebase.

“It was a long year, and I’m glad I came home,” Russell said.

His son, James Russell, was born while he was away. Tuesday, James accompanied his father on the Honor Flight.

“It’s very moving, emotionally,” Ron Russell said of the memorial. “You kind of come to terms with how many people were killed.”

Bob Bonorden of Cedar Falls also was coming to terms with that at the Korean War Memorial, the war he was in from 1953 to 1957. When he enlisted, however, he only romanticized the Navy sailor’s hat.

Even though the only action the communications specialist saw was “guys coming aboard all lit up” when they returned to his ship, the USS Lexington, he appreciated the Korean Memorial.

“I think those people do a super job,” he said, tearing up. “There are just not enough words to say.”