Falck takes Honor Flight

Howard Falck, who served in the Marine Corps during the Korean War, stands by one of its monuments.

Howard Falck, who served in the Marine Corps during the Korean War, stands by one of its monuments.

By Marcie Klomp

It was a humbling experience for Howard Falck to be able to go on the Freedom Honor Flight. A veteran of the Korean War, Falck said the send off and return from Washington, D.C. “was unbelievable to me.”

The 70 or so veterans were treated to First Class treatment from the beginning to the end of their May 4, 2013 one-day trip of a lifetime. The group left from LaCrosse. To keep the elderly men and women rested, they were given rides from their cars to the plane on golf carts. They were given a full breakfast and a nice send off at 7:30 a.m. from family, friends, Boy Scouts and supporters. “It didn’t matter where you were. There was a line of people greeting you and thanking you,” Falck revealed. “They said ‘Thank you for our freedom. Thank you for your service.’ We also got a lot of hugs.”

The plane ride was their last time to rest for a while, because as soon as they hit the tarmac at Dulles International, it was nonstop activity.

“We were escorted by motorcade and federal troopers. We were just like the president. We never stopped at a stop sign or anything,” Falck joked.

The men and women who served their country years ago visited the main Washington, D.C. memorials—Air Force, World War II, Korean, Vietnam, Marine and Lincoln, to name a few. Falck said they were all impressive. He visited the Korean War Memorial instead of Vietnam since he served during the Korean War. He commented it wasn’t as impressive as the others.

Although he won’t admit it out loud, Falck’s favorite was the Marine Corps War Memorial. It features the raising of the second flag during the Battle of Iwo Jima. He jokingly claims while in the country’s capitol he helped lift it back to stand straight! He even has a picture to prove it.

Falck’s guardian, Bob Buley, was a retired pilot who was able to expand on the information given on each memorial. Each veteran, about half of whom were in wheelchairs, is given a guardian to help them get from here to there.

After an amazing day, the tired group got on the plane for the return trip, where they had “Mail Call.” Each veteran was given a packet of letters from school children who thanked them for their service. Falck received four letters from young to older youth.

The plane landed in LaCrosse around 11:00 p.m. The veterans perked right up as they were getting off the plane to the sound of a brass band playing and fireworks. The airport was again full of people welcoming the men and women home.

Falck compared two very different times of his life . . . “back in ‘51 when they put you on the train for boot camp and then we were treated like this. It was unbelievable.”

He returned to LaCrosse on June 23 for a luncheon. The veterans received a book and DVD full of pictures from their special day.

The real beginning of Falck’s journey started back in December 1951 when he was drafted. After arriving in Des Moines, he and his fellow soldiers quickly learned how life was going to be.

The men were told to put down their preference for which branch they wanted to serve. “Most of us put Army (1), Navy (2) and Marine Corps (3). Then the sergeant said, ‘I don’t care what you signed up for. You’re going to the Marine Corps!’” The train left for MCRD (Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego), picking up men from Montana.

Falck stayed in touch with the men from his platoon for many years. “They’re all gone now,” he noted.

He was honorably discharged in December 1953 and joined the LeRoy Legion, Post 161. Years later he was told about the Freedom Honor Flight and was honored himself by getting a letter this spring inviting him on the flight.

Looking back on the flight, Falck shook his head, “For an old guy, it went by so quick your brain couldn’t keep up, but it was pretty neat.”

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