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Local veteran part of Honor Flight to Washington

Photo provided to the Times Observer Ed Yaegle and his aide, David, traveled to Washington D.C. last weekend as part of an Honor Flight to Washington D.C. with stops among a host of places including the US Marine Corps War Memorial.

Ed Yaegle isn’t quite sure how the people coordinating a recent Honor Flight to Washington D.C. got in touch with him.

But he is certainly glad they did.

Honor Flights aim to take as many veterans as possible to Washington DC to see the memorials for the wars in which they were engaged.

Yaegle’s trip was last weekend.

“It was unbelievable. People were cheering. It just made tears come to my eyes,” he said.

Yaegle, who lives in Pleasant Township and said he’ll turn 90 in March, was a celebrity wherever he went.

The journey started with a drive to Buffalo on Friday night and an early morning flight out of the airport Saturday morning.

The reception at the airport was “unbelievable” and continued when they touched down in Baltimore.

“(It was) so rewarding, so many people appreciating what the veterans had done,” he said.

They got back on buses for an escort to D.C. and the tour started at the World War II Memorial.

“It was so beautiful,” he said. “Kids were so nice and polite.” He learned that there were 150 students from Ohio there meeting them. “(They) shook our hands and congratulated us. It was heartwarming to have this feeling come over ya know.”

Everyone on the flight was assigned an aide — Dave Kaetzel took care of Ed, calling him “that poor guy that pushed me around.”

“My favorite part was sharing stories and memories from our time in the service,” Kaetzel said. “Although we live far apart, and 40 years separate us, and we didn’t know each other at all, we became instant friends because our patriotism and love for our country is a strong bond that can’t be broken.”

They toured all of the memorials on the National Mall and also went to Arlington National Cemetery to witness the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Yaegle said that “impressed me very much.”

The celebrity treatment continued throughout the day and on the trip back home. “Everybody at the airport cheering… it’s just heartfelt when people appreciate something you’ve done.”

Yaegle was drafted into the service and spent 16 months in Korea, first at the front and then in guard posts along the 38th parallel, the famed Demilitarized Zone.

Korea was not a place he wanted to go. He was diagnosed with pneumonia during training and spent some time in a military hospital. That reinforced his view.

“I see all these guys coming back from Korea,” he said, with artificial arms and artificial legs. “Your brian starts to think ‘what the hell is going on?'” He said he had friends in basic training that got to Korea before he did and “got run over by the Chinese. I should have been there with them.”

There was one memorial, then, that he wanted to see above all the others.

“The thing that disappointed me the most (was they) were working on the Korean War Memorial,” he said. “That’s the one I wanted to see. I wanted to get pictures standing in front of that.”

But that didn’t take away the joy of the experience.

“It was a wonderful weekend,” he said.

The celebrity status carried over to Monday for him as Honor Flight participants answered “Mail Call” as part of the weekend.

He was given “envelopes full of cards. I sat down the next morning and read every one of them. So many ‘thank yous.’ That impressed me too. It makes you feel good all over.”

“It’s hard to thank everybody,” he said.

He stressed that he’d encourage any veteran to sign up for a flight.

“It’s really nice to see people appreciate what we have done over the years,” he said, “and even today.” Pointing to his Korean War Veteran hat, he said “I wear my hat… almost all the time. There are people that still remember the suffering we went through.

“(I) would like to see more people from Warren sign up for it.”

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