COLERIDGE — Lyle Cook thought he’d seen Washington, D.C., before.
After all, the Coleridge man traveled there twice - once when he was discharged from the U.S. Army in 1967, and another trip more recently when his wife, Joyce, retired. But his third trip last week on Honor Flight 10 completely changed his perspective - taking in the sights and sounds of D.C. in a brand new way.
“The operation was like a well-oiled machine,” he said. “Everybody did their job and they did it really, really well. … There were so many places to be and to see and to do.”
Cook joined 83 other veterans on the Honor Flight out of Sioux Falls, S.D., after a family member from Minnesota nominated him to be included.
The Honor Flight Network celebrates America’s veterans by inviting them to share in a day of honor at the nation’s memorials. Participation in an Honor Flight trip gives veterans the opportunity to share the occasion with other comrades, remember those friends and fellow soldiers who lost their lives, and share their stories and experiences.
Cook, a U.S. Army veteran from 1965-67, was stationed in a post office in Germany during the Vietnam War which qualified him for the all-expenses-paid trip. Cook’s Honor Flight had been rescheduled several times due to the COVID-19 pandemic before finally getting off the ground last week.
Since spouses aren’t allowed to go along, Cook chose the family member who nominated him as his “guardian” for the trip.
“The reason being I hear wives went shopping and didn’t return and so they didn’t get back into Sioux Falls until 2, 3 o’clock in the morning,” Cook joked.
He’s still recovering from the whirlwind day of travel amongst other veterans on the flight. They left Sioux Falls at 3 a.m. Wednesday, June 1 and returned to Sioux Falls that same night.
It was a lot to take in during a short timespan.
“Very seldom did we ever have any idle time. We visited just about every memorial there. Some of them I had never even heard of before,” Cook said. “They’re all spectacular in their own right.”
He was impressed with the The Marine Corps Memorial and the optical illusion which makes it appear as if the statue soldiers are raising the flag; and also the Korean War Memorial in which the statue soldiers are positioned in a way that one is always watching, Cook said.
He received a Midwest Honor Flight Final Tour medal and a Vietnam Vet lapel pin as part of the day’s festivities.
Just being amongst other veterans and experiencing the memorials for the first time together was especially meaningful, he said.
Cook can’t sum up the day in one word but he’ll try to do it justice with a few.
“The only thing that comes to mind right now is: awesome; fantastic; pretty much unbelievable,” he said. “It was just a chance of a lifetime.”