Daryl Cox, left, and another Korean War veteran honor the memory of Lee Holmes during an Eastern Iowa Honor Flight to Washington, D.C.
Daryl Cox served in the Korean War in 1951. Sixty-three years later on May 21, because of his service, he took a daytrip to Washington, D.C. as a member of the Eastern Iowa Honor Flight with his daughter, Nancy Jacobsen, as chaperone.
From Cedar Rapids, they flew at seven in the morning to the nation’s capitol, into Reagan National Airport. They did not have to stop at the metal detector or empty their pockets—they were ushered right through.
It was a busy day. In Washington, they departed their airplane for buses with a police escort. A couple of veterans in D.C. had volunteered to be conductors. One of them stopped traffic at every street.
The organizers loaded plenty of wheelchairs, which by the end of the day proved useful to many.
They visited the World War II Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, the Korean War Veterans Memorial, the Vietnam War Memorial, Arlington Cemetery, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the Iwo Jima Memorial, the Air Force Memorial, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial and the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial.
“There wasn’t much in Washington that we didn’t see,” Cox says. “We had priority. We went right through the traffic and never stopped for anything. It was very well planned.
“It showed that what we did finally was respected. The Korean War veterans, especially. We received no honor. We received nothing. When we came home, we came home. And that was it.”
“When we got to the airport, there were a big group of people that met us there and cheered and thanked the veterans,” Nancy Jacobsen says. “We didn’t go to any monument or memorial that there weren’t people there. The World War II memorial, there was a group of people there that greeted them. But most places there were lots of school kids. Out of a group, there would always be three or four kids that would come up and shake the veteran’s hand and say thank you for your service.”
“When we came back to Cedar Rapids, I bet there were 500 or 600 people that met us there, and that was at 11 o’clock at night,” Cox says. “There were Boy Scouts, there was a band. It was more like I had just come home as a unit.
“It made you feel like what you did was worth it. It was fantastic how we were treated.”
“I knew what was going to happen,” Jacobsen says. “Because they had sent a letter out and said we’re going to have this reception at the airport. And so my husband and my grandkids met us over there at 11 o’clock. But the veterans had no idea.”
Visiting the Korean War Veterans Memorial was the highlight of Cox’s trip. Nineteen stainless steel statues of soldiers in trench coats walk with rifle, reflected by the black inlaid granite memorial. A plaque reads, “Our nation honors her sons and daughters who answered the call to defend a country they never knew and a people they never met.” A wall contains 4,048 gold stars, each representing 100 Americans that died during the war.
Application for an Eastern Iowa Honor Flight is simple. Log on to their website at www.eihonorflight.org, and download and fill out their form by clicking on the applications link. For upcoming flights, they accept World War II and Korean War veterans, as well as fully disabled or terminally-ill veterans of any conflict. The generous donations of both individuals and businesses make these flights possible.
“They tell you that you can have your own guardian go with you,” Cox says. “Or they can furnish a guardian, whichever you want.”
Jacobsen indicates the Eastern Iowa Honor Flights organizes four trips, one each in April, May, September and October. She estimated that there were 89 veterans on their flight. Jacobsen served as her father’s guardian, and was also assigned to assist another Korean War veteran as well. Several Vietnam War veterans made the trip also. They presented a plaque to Cox on the airplane.
Two other Wayne County veterans had been scheduled to travel with father and daughter to D.C. Howard Evitt and Lee Holmes were supposed to join them on the flight. Holmes passed away in January, and the day Cox and Jacobsen went to orientation, May 10, Evitt found out his wife was sick, and would be unable to leave her side.
“They honored the veterans that couldn’t make the flight,” Jacobsen says. Eight veterans died in the process of organizing the trip. “It was special that they honored the guys that had died, because I work with Julie Foster, and that was her dad. They had a picture there of Dad and Lee [at the Korean War Veterans Memorial]. They saluted, honored him in that way. It was really touching.”
When asked what it means to Jacobsen to have her father honored in this way, it takes her a moment to respond.
“It’s something we don’t talk about a lot,” she says. “I just felt like he finally got his due.
“It was a really neat day for me. It was nice to see all those guys, to see how people came out and greeted them and really thanked them, which I’m sure they hadn’t heard much of. I was glad I got to do that with him.
“Although it was a long day, and we were tired when we got back, I felt like almost anyone who wanted to go, they would’ve made it happen. I know there was a guy who sat close to us who had oxygen, and he had somebody with him on the flight to monitor him.”
“I’d do it again,” Cox says. “All of the memorials are fantastic.”
Jacobsen says she would gladly go back, even though one in every 12 people in Washington, D.C. is a lawyer, or so she was told.
“It’s the only useful industry [there] other than tourism and running the government,” Jacobsen says.
Cox graduated from Cambria High School in 1948 and enlisted in the United States Army. When American entered the Korean Civil War, his country called Cox back to duty. His unit lit in Pusan and started moving north, rebuilding a railroad, and then a bridge when they reached the Han River, which had sections shelled out of it, until the 38th Parallel. He retired in 1982 after over 33 years of service, with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. He is proud of the moment when they allowed his wife, Hazel Dean, to pin the leaf on his uniform.
“I’m just thankful that there was people like this Eastern Honor Flight that takes the time and effort to do something [like this],” Cox says. “I think it’s great that they have honored them, and started with World War II.”